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GOP Senators Warn of Constitutional Violations if Democrats Filibuster Estrada

Republicans went on the offensive Tuesday, charging that a Democratic filibuster of Miguel Estrada’s appeals court nomination would thwart the Constitution.

Democrats are considering blocking a vote on Estrada, President Bush’s pick for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and a potential future candidate for the Supreme Court. They are expected to make a decision following Tuesday’s party policy lunches.

The Constitution only requires judicial nominees to garner 51 Senate votes to ascend to the federal bench, but it takes 60 to break a filibuster. Therefore, Democrats are trying to change the Constitution by effectively requiring Estrada to get 60 votes, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) said.

If Democrats mount a filibuster, it would hold Estrada to a higher standard than any other nominee to a lower court, she said.

Republican Conference Chairman Rick Sanatorum (Pa.) said the leadership has “no intention” of filing for cloture, a procedural maneuver that ends a filibuster by cutting off debate and forcing a vote.

“We’re not going to raise the bar to 60 votes,” he said.

For more on the Estrada nomination, see Wednesday’s Roll Call newspaper.

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