Republican National Hispanic Assembly
Washington State Chairman
Statement by the President:
Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn statement on Miguel Estrada:
Statement from Congressman Doc Hastings:
Cantwell, Murray fight Estrada vote
Thursday, March 6, 2003
While Hispanics plan Seattle and Yakima rallies today in support of Miguel Estrada's appointment as a federal judge, Washington's two U.S. senators say they will vote to continue the filibuster that is blocking a vote on his nomination.
Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both D-Wash., said Estrada, nominated by President Bush to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, has not been forthcoming about his views.
Cantwell said Estrada failed to answer most of the substantive questions he was asked by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
"We are at a critical time in this country with regard to a woman's right to choose, with regard to how the judiciary will interpret the constitutional right to privacy, protect individuals from government surveillance and intrusion, and protect personal medical and financial information," she said.
"If you take a test and don't answer the questions, you can't pass."
Said Murray: "Without more information to determine how Mr. Estrada will rule as a federal judge on important matters of labor rights, rights of privacy, civil rights and environmental regulation, I cannot consent to his nomination."
Democrats also want the White House to turn over internal memos Estrada wrote while serving in the solicitor general's office of the Justice Department during both the administrations of Bush's father and President Clinton.
Would win confirmation
If and when Estrada's nomination comes to the Senate floor for a vote, he is expected to win confirmation. That would make him one of the highest-ranking Hispanics in the federal judiciary.
But, under Senate rules, a vote may be blocked by continued debate -- a filibuster.
In a process called cloture, there will be a vote today aimed at ending the debate and clearing the way for a floor vote. But cloture requires 60 votes out of 100.
Four Democrats have said they will vote to end the filibuster. But five more would be needed, along with all Republican senators, to invoke cloture.
A 41-year-old Honduran immigrant and Harvard Law School graduate, Estrada practices law in Washington, D.C.
Republican Hispanic groups plan rallies today in support of Estrada from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in front of federal buildings in Seattle and Yakima.
Spokesman Pedro Celis of Bellevue said they want to convince Murray and Cantwell "to stop the partisan gridlock" and support Estrada, who has "sought to ensure that all citizens receive the law's fullest protections and benefits, whether they are death-row inmates, abortion clinics targeted by violent protesters, or inner-city residents victimized by gang violence.
"We urge Senators Murray and Cantwell to put partisan politics aside so that Hispanics are no longer denied representation on one of the most prestigious courts in the land."
Friday, March 07, 2003, 12:00 a.m. Pacific
Filibuster on Estrada exposes Dems' true colors
By Tony Tocora and Steven J. Cuevas
The United States of America is the greatest country in the world. Consider the story of Miguel Estrada, who immigrated to this country at the age of 17.
He earned degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law School, served both Republican and Democratic presidents in the Solicitor General's Office, works for a prestigious law firm, and now stands to be the first Hispanic appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Estrada is a leader in the Hispanic community and a shining example of the American Dream. Yet, U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Washington Democrats, are going along with a filibuster to prevent the Senate from voting on his confirmation. Why?
Estrada's qualifications for the bench are unimpeachable.
The Honduran native graduated magna cum laude from the best law school in the world. As assistant solicitor general, he argued 15 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Prior to that, he was the deputy chief of the appellate section of the U.S. attorney's office in the Southern District of New York. You may recall that this is the same U.S. attorney's office that produced former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Oh, and he began his legal career by clerking for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
He has proven to be a brilliant attorney with an outstanding record.
But for Murray and Cantwell, the bipartisan support of the American Bar Association, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the National Hispanic Bar Association, former Solicitor General Seth Waxman and countless others is irrelevant.
By failing to end the filibuster, the senators lend support to party-leadership claims that Estrada is not qualified.
Democrats in the Senate have invented one untenable argument after the other to justify their obstruction. Their position would be funny if it were not so insulting.
The arguments Democrats have raised against Estrada range from the merely unsupported to the outright offensive.
Our senators have gone along with the special-interest voices claiming that on one hand Estrada is too far right of the mainstream, and on the other he is a stealth candidate they know nothing about. Well, which is it?
Democrats contend he lacks judicial experience, while ignoring the simple fact that all but three current members of this same court had no bench experience prior to donning the robe.
Senate Democrats expressed shock when Estrada maintained his ethical obligation to a client by refusing to share confidential memoranda he drafted while at the Solicitor General's Office. Not only is this request unprecedented, but all seven living former solicitors general agreed with Estrada.
The Democrats assert that he is "Hispanic in name only" and that he was nominated simply because he is Hispanic. Those arguments are repugnant, require no response and have no place in our public debate.
Why are Murray and Cantwell working to block Estrada's appointment to the Court of Appeals?
The answer is simple: They and other Democrats are placing partisan and racial politics above the needs of the country. The filibuster Democrats have orchestrated is preventing the Senate from addressing other important issues. Rather than dealing with the pending war, terrorism and the economy, they are spending all of their time preventing a simple vote.
This abuse of the "advise and consent" role the Senate plays in the confirmation process is dangerous. If successful, this filibuster will alter over 200 years of Senate tradition. It will no longer be good enough to get a majority of votes; it will now require a supermajority of 60 votes, the number needed for cloture. The minority may not rule, but it is holding the Senate hostage. The debate is over, it is time to vote and move on.
Murray and Cantwell offer no reasonable explanation why they are blocking a lawful vote on this candidate. We are left wondering why they demand a minority candidate meet a higher standard than any other judicial nominee in history.
Our senators are politically savvy and when the inevitable vote does come, they will no doubt vote in favor of Estrada a political necessity when they come to our neighborhoods soliciting our votes. All minority groups should pay close attention to Miguel Estrada's fight and take note for election day.
In spite of Murray's and Cantwell's shameful attempts to undermine the confirmation of this qualified candidate, we are confident Estrada will be confirmed by the Senate to become the first Hispanic on the First Circuit Court of Appeals. He will continue to be a role model not just for Hispanics, but for all immigrants and their children. Estrada is a shining example of the greatness that can be attained by anyone in the United States, the greatest country in the world.
Tony Tocora is chairman and Steven J. Cuevas is director of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, King County chapter.
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GOP fails to quash filibuster; local group backs Estrada nomination
By Helen Dewar
WASHINGTON Republicans failed yesterday in an initial attempt to break the monthlong Democratic filibuster blocking a vote on the hotly contested judicial nomination of Miguel Estrada but vowed to continue pressing for confirmation, even as they moved on to other business.
The vote was 55-44 in favor of limiting debate, five votes short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster and force a final vote on Estrada's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
As expected, four Democrats joined all 51 Republicans in voting to end the filibuster. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., voted against ending debate.
Republicans may call for another vote to end the Estrada filibuster next week but do not plan to go back to full-time debate over the nomination.
In Seattle, about 40 people protested the action with signs and a candlelight vigil during the afternoon rush hour in front of the Federal Building, at Second Avenue and Madison Street.
The protest was organized by state Republican groups.
Marta Guevara, a Hispanic activist, said she has reared her children and grandchildren to believe that they can achieve anything if they work hard.
"That's what (Estrada) did," she said of the 41-year-old Honduran-born, Harvard-educated lawyer. "And to have that shot down by politics just breaks my heart."
Pedro Celis, chairman of the Washington Republican National Hispanic Assembly, said the Senate should not be wasting time playing politics.
"Let it come to the floor for a vote," Celis said. "If he's not qualified, then vote him down."
While the outcome was no surprise, the vote served to put senators on record for the first time on the issue. It also could prove to be a pivotal point in what amounts to an unprecedented struggle for a second-tier judgeship that both parties are treating as a warm-up exercise for a possible fight over a Supreme Court nomination later in the Bush presidency.
But it was not clear whether it would lead to anything more than a protracted stalemate that would keep Estrada from the bench indefinitely. Democrats appear to remain just as determined to block the nomination until they obtain more information about Estrada and his views as Republicans are to pursue a confirmation vote, regardless of how long it takes.
"If needed, we will vote on cloture (the procedure for limiting debate), again and again ... until Miguel Estrada is confirmed," Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., told the Senate before the vote.
Republicans also were considering asking Estrada to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to answer a new round of questions, a move that could satisfy enough Democrats to break the partisan impasse.
Describing the problem as "intransigence" on the part of Estrada and the administration, Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., said of the nominee: "He has been asked to fill out a job application, and he is refusing to fill out the final pages of that application."
Estrada never has served as a judge, and his legal writings are sparse.
Democrats, some of whom have said Estrada is afraid to share his views, say they will continue to filibuster until he and the administration provide more information about his views on legal principles, including memoranda he wrote while working in the Solicitor General's office.
"With so little information to determine how Mr. Estrada will rule as a federal judge on important matters of labor rights, rights of privacy, civil rights and environmental regulation, I cannot consent to considering his nomination at this time," said Murray, Washington's senior senator.
"I think most people understand if you take a test, and don't answer the questions, you can't pass," she said. "If you come before the Senate Judiciary Committee and fail to answer the questions, you shouldn't be confirmed."
Republicans, describing Estrada as eminently qualified for the bench, contend that the Senate has as much information about him as it has had about other nominees that it routinely has confirmed. In response to Democrats' charges that the administration is trying to pack the courts with conservatives, Republicans accuse Democrats of applying "litmus tests" on abortion and other issues.
As indicated by earlier counts, the only Democrats who voted to proceed with a vote on Estrada were John Breaux of Louisiana; Zell Miller (Georgia); Bill Nelson (Florida); and Ben Nelson (Nebraska). Sen. Bob Graham (Florida), who is recovering from heart surgery remained in Florida.
Information from Knight Ridder Newspapers and Seattle Times staff reporter Michael Ko is included in this report.
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company
Note from Pedro Celis. I thought it would be useful to include the following excerpt from a letter sent by Alberto Gonzalez, the President's legal counsel to democrat Senators in response to allegations Estrada has not been forthcoming with how he would rule on abortion or other issues that would come to the court after he is confirmed.
It is documents how it is required for candidates not to answer specifics of those questions.
Clearly a double standard is being applied to Estrada.
or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies or issues that are likely to come before the court"
(emphasis added). Justice Thurgood Marshall made the point well in 1967 when asked about the Fifth Amendment: "I do not think you want me to be in a position of giving you a statement on the Fifth Amendment and then, if I am confirmed and sit on the Court, when a Fifth Amendment case comes up, I will have to disqualify myself." Lloyd Cutler, who served as Counsel to President Carter and President Clinton, has stated that "candidates should decline to reply when efforts are made to find out how they would decide a particular case."
In 1968, in the context of the Justice Abe Fortas nomination to be Chief Justice, the Senate Judiciary Committee similarly stated: "Although recognizing the constitutional dilemma which appears to exist when the Senate is asked to advise and consent on a judicial nominee without examining him on legal questions, the Committee is of the view that Justice Fortas wisely and correctly declined to answer questions in this area. To require a Justice to state his views on legal questions or to discuss his past decisions before the Committee would threaten the independence of the judiciary and the integrity of the judicial system itself. It would also impinge on the constitutional doctrine of separation of powers among the three branches of Government as required by the Constitution." S. Exec. Rep. No. 8, 90th Cong. 2d Sess. 5 (1968).
Even in the context of a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Senator Kennedy defended Sandra Day OConnors refusal to discuss her views on abortion: "It is offensive to suggest that a potential Justice of the Supreme Court must pass some presumed test of judicial philosophy. It is even more offensive to suggest that a potential justice must pass the litmus test of any single-issue interest group." Nomination of Sandra OConnor: Hearings Before the Senate Comm. on the Judiciary on the Nomination of Judge Sandra Day OConnor of Arizona to Serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, 97th Cong. 6 (1981) (statement of Sen. Kennedy).
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likewise declined to answer certain questions: "Because I am and hope to continue to be a judge, it would be wrong for me to say or to preview in this legislative chamber how I would cast my vote on questions the Supreme Court may be called upon to decide. Were I to rehearse here what I would say and how I would reason on such questions, I would act injudiciously." Similarly, Justice John Paul Stevens stated in his hearing: "I really dont think I should discuss this subject generally, Senator. I dont mean to be unresponsive but in all candor I must say that there have been many times in my experience in the last five years where I found that my first reaction to a problem was not the same as the reaction I had when I had the responsibility of decisions and I think that if I were to make comments that were not carefully thought through they might be given significance that they really did not merit."
Justice Ginsburg described the traditional practice in a case decided last year: "In the context of the federal system, how a prospective nominee for the bench would resolve particular contentious issues would certainly be on interest to the President and the Senate . . . . But in accord with a longstanding norm, every Member of this Court declined to furnish such information to the Senate, and presumably to the President as well." Republican Party of Minnesota v. White, 122 S. Ct. 2528, 2552 n.1 (2002) (Ginsburg, J., dissenting) (emphasis added). Justice Ginsburg added that this adherence to this "longstanding norm" was "crucial to the health of the Federal Judiciary." Id. In his majority opinion, Justice Scalia did not take issue with that description and added: "Nor do we assert that candidates for judicial office should be compelled to announce their views on disputed legal issues." Id. at 2539 n.11 (emphasis in original).
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