Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) filed for cloture yesterday afternoon to cut off debate on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. A vote on cloture will be held on Thursday; however, 60 votes are needed to cut off debate and force a vote on the contentious nominee. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) says he is confident that the Democrats have the 41 votes they need to block cloture, the Los Angeles Times reports. One GOP aide indicated that though Frist does not expect to win the cloture vote, he will continue to call for “as many cloture votes as is necessary to win confirmation” of Estrada, according to Roll Call.
The Senate has been locked in debate over Estrada for three weeks. Senate Democrats have repeatedly said they will continue the filibuster unless Estrada answers basic questions about his positions on critical issues, such as abortion rights 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.
President Bush used a recent radio address to urge Democrats to confirm Estrada, highlighting the fact that Estrada would be “the first Hispanic American ever to serve on this court,” according to the Washington Post. However, Estrada is opposed by a wide variety of Latino groups, including the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus, the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Educational Fund (PRLDEF) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). Rep. Ciro D. Rodriguez (D-TX), chair of the Hispanic Caucus, asked the Post “Where was the outrage that we have heard from some senators over the stalling of Enrique Moreon, Jorge Rangel, Christine Arguello, and Richard Paez? These are but a few of the Clinton Latino nominees who languished for years.”