Wes Hickman/Kevin Bishop
-- U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) today voted to end debate on the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The voted failed by a 55-44 margin. Under Senate rules, it takes 60 votes to end debate on an issue. All 51 Republican Senators along with 4 Democratic Senators – Zell Miller of Georgia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, and John Breaux of Louisiana voted to end the filibuster which has now lasted four weeks.
“Needless to say, I’m disappointed the U.S. Senate has failed to end the partisan filibuster on this very qualified nominee,” said Graham, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Miguel Estrada is being opposed because he is a conservative and the liberal left of the Democratic Party has declared war upon him. Requiring 60 votes to confirm a judge will lead us down a very destructive path.”
“A person with Mr. Estrada’s qualifications and experience seemingly would be a shoe-in for a speedy confirmation,” said Graham. “Unfortunately, partisan Senate Democrats are holding the Estrada nomination hostage and are engaged in a filibuster to prevent the issue from coming to a vote. The tactic is without precedent as the Senate has never blocked – by partisan filibuster – any judicial nominee.”
Born and raised in Honduras, Estrada immigrated to the United States at age 17. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia College and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the law review. He’s argued numerous cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and served in the U.S. Justice Department under both Democrat and Republican presidents.
If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Estrada would become the first Hispanic ever to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit, often considered the second most important federal court behind the Supreme Court.
Graham noted the attacks on Estrada include
: Estrada lacks the proper qualifications.
: Senate Democrats have admitted he is a brilliant lawyer, but say he lacks experience. This overlooks the fact two Supreme Court justices – Byron White and Chief Justice William Rehnquist – appointed by a Democrat and Republican president, had no experience prior to their serving on the highest court in the land. Also, the American Bar Association, referred to as the “gold standard” by many Senate Democrats, unanimously conferred on Estrada their highest rating of “well qualified.”
: We haven’t had enough time to question the nominee.
: Estrada testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee for five hours. After the hearing was complete and he answered the questions asked of him, only 2 Democratic Senators submitted additional questions. In addition, President Bush nominated Estrada in May 2001 when Democrats controlled the Senate. Had they seen fit, and being in complete control of the Judiciary Committee, they could have held multiple hearings and questioned him for hours on end. They chose not to.
: Estrada is too conservative.
: Part of the filibuster revolves around the fact Senate Democrats have little tolerance for placing a qualified, conservative Hispanic on the bench even though seven former Solicitor Generals who represented the U.S. government before the Supreme Court, 3 Democrats and 4 Republicans, have all recommended his nomination be approved.
Graham also noted Estrada also worked for the Clinton Justice Department, hardly a bastion of conservatism. Seth Waxman, President Clinton’s Solicitor General, called him a “model of professionalism and competence” and said of his beliefs, “In no way did I ever discern that the recommendations Mr. Estrada made or the views he propounded were colored in any way by his personal views – or indeed that they reflected anything other than the long-term interests of the United States.”
“I hope the Senate will eventually end debate and allow a vote on this qualified judicial nominee,” said Graham. “We owe it to Mr. Estrada and to the nation to give this public servant his day in court, or in this case, the U.S. Senate.”