Democrats defeated a motion by Senate Republicans to end the filibuster against Miguel Estrada today by amassing 44 votes to continue the debate. Republicans, who need 60 votes to end the filibuster, received 55. Estrada, nominated by President Bush to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, has been the target of a three-week filibuster that Democrats say will only end when Estrada reveals his views on critical issues such as abortion and civil rights.
Estrada has been called a stealth right-wing nominee because of his refusal to reveal his views. Many Senate Democrats have argued that this refusal impedes the Senate from carrying out its constitutional “advise-and-consent” duties in confirming presidential appointments. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) filed for cloture on Tuesday, needing 60 votes to cut off debate and force a vote on Estrada.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) has remained confident that the Democrats have the 41 votes they need to block cloture, the Los Angeles Times reports. One GOP aide indicated that Frist will continue to call for “as many cloture votes as is necessary to win confirmation” of Estrada, according to Roll Call. Senators voted along party lines, with Democrats John Breaux (LA), Zell Miller (GA), Bill Nelson (FL), and Ben Nelson (NE) breaking rank as expected, and Bob Graham (FL) abstaining. Graham has not yet decided how he will vote on Estrada, according to the Miami Herald.