Senate Republicans scheduled a second cloture vote on Thursday on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, considered to be the second most influential court in the nation. Last week they failed to garner the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster in the first cloture vote. Democrats oppose the Estrada nomination because Estrada has no demonstrated commitment to civil rights or women’s rights and refused to answer many questions regarding civil and women’s rights during his hearing.
Republicans also plan to bring the nominations of Jeffrey Sutton, Deborah Cook, John Roberts, Tim Tymkovich, and Jay Bybee to the Senate floor in the coming weeks. Many of these nominees have been opposed by civil rights and women’s rights groups because of their documented hostility to workers’ rights, civil rights, and abortion rights.
Republicans have also scheduled a hearing for Thursday on Priscilla Owen, a nominee defeated in committee last session because of her record on women’s and civil rights. In voting against Owen’s nomination in September 2002, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) stated “[f]or those of us who are pro-choice this is important. I ran as a pro-choice candidate and I came to this committee to protect choice.”
Before scheduling the cloture vote, Republicans made some novel attempts to end the filibuster of Estrada’s nomination, the Washington Post reported. President Bush offered a plan to institute time limits on federal judicial nominations, which would essentially remove a historic power of the Senate minority to stop the confirmation of controversial nominees. Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) rejected this idea, saying, “They’re here today to claim that the Constitution is threatened by the very same procedures that they themselves have employed. They’re here today to claim the Constitution is going to be threatened by the very same powers that it grants.” Daschle further pointed out that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) argued for a filibuster on a judicial nominee in 1994 saying that the minority has to protect itself and those the minority represents.
Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) offered the Democrats another hearing with Estrada if they would agree to commit to having a vote on his nomination by a specific date. As the Democrats pointed out, scheduling another hearing does not mean Estrada will finally answer questions about his legal views and therefore they could not commit to a vote. “If the transcript of a new hearing is the same as the first hearing, then we won’t change our position,” Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) told the Times. Democrats continue to insist that the White House release documents Estrada wrote while serving as a solicitor general.
The Feminist Majority joins a wide variety of civil rights and women’s rights groups in opposing the nominations of Estrada, Sutton, Cook, Roberts, Tymkovich, and Owen. Gay and lesbian rights groups have opposed the nomination of Bybee to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.