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With Filibuster, Dems Keep HLS Alum from Bench

By Ella A. Hoffman, Crimson Staff Writer

The Democrats in the U.S. Senate yesterday successfully blocked Bush nominee Miguel A. Estrada—a 1986 Harvard Law School graduate and, Democrats charge, a “stealth conservative”—from joining a major federal court.

After four weeks of waiting out a Democratic filibuster on the Estrada nomination, Republicans tried to end the Democratic blockade—by making a so-called “cloture” vote—but fell five votes shy of ending the blockade,

Democrats said they have stopped nomination because Estrada, thought to be a staunch conservative, declined to answer questions on his political views during Senate hearings to confirm his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Senate Democrats have called for the release of documents from Estrada’s tenure as an assistant to the Solicitor General at the Justice Department and that he submit to additional questioning in a public hearing.

“We have simply asked that Mr. Estrada fill out his application for this lifetime employment as every other one of his predecessors has,” Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D, told the Associated Press.

Democratic leaders said they will not permit a final vote until at least one of these stipulations is met.

Even though the Democrats were successful yesterday, HLS Beneficial Professor of Law Charles Fried—a friend and mentor to Estrada—said that Republicans would ultimately gain from the Democrats victory.

“Filibustering is costly to the party that is doing it,” Fried said.

Fried said he does not believe Estrada should have to reveal the information Democrats are demanding.

According to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn, the GOP will try to reopen the issue after addressing other matters of business.

“If we need to, we will vote on cloture again and again,” Frist told the Associated Press. “Let me be clear: the majority will press for an up and down vote on this nominee until Miguel Estrada is confirmed.”

Estrada—a Honduran immigrant and potentially the first Latino to serve on the D.C. circuit—was nominated for the seat by President Bush two years ago.

Despite Estrada’s extensive credentials—he has served as the assistant U.S. Attorney and an assistant to the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice—he was a controversial nominee from the beginning.

“I think the Republicans took a calculated risk in trying to push Estrada’s nomination through,” Georgetown Law Professor David Vladeck said last month.

The D.C. Circuit bench is considered second in prestige only to the U.S. Supreme Court, seeing cases related to the separation of powers, the role of the federal government and federal agencies.

The filibuster represents the first major setback for the Republican Party since they gained a majority in Congress last November.

New York State GOP Chair Alexander Treadwell has urged Estrada to run against Sen. Charles E. Schumer for a Senate seat in the 2003 election.

—Staff writer Ella A. Hoffman can be reached at ehoffman@fas.harvard.edu.

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