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Frist Rescinds Recess Threat, Will Allow Senate Full Week Off

Backing down from a threat he issued earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said Thursday the chamber would have its full Presidents Day recess next week.

Frist said the Senate would adjourn either late tonight or, more likely, early Friday morning, once it receives and passes the omnibus spending bill, which is expected to first clear the House later this evening.

Frist had been threatening to keep the Senate in session over the weekend or even into next week’s recess until circuit court nominee Miguel Estrada was confirmed, following up on his decision to cancel mid-January’s weeklong recess until the chamber finished the omnibus appropriations package and sent it to conference.

But Senate GOP leaders, at an impromptu conference Wednesday night, decided to go ahead with the recess and resume the Estrada debate when the chamber reopens the week of Feb. 24.

Also, Frist said, the Republican Conference has redoubled its pledge not to file a cloture motion on Estrada’s bid to become the first Hispanic on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Momentum had been growing late Tuesday and most of Wednesday to file a cloture motion to force a vote on Estrada, one that Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.) has guaranteed the Republicans can’t win.

They need 60 votes to close off the Democratic filibuster and currently only have 53 votes — including three from Democratic Sens. John Breaux (La.), Zell Miller (Ga.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.).

Majority Whip Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is still at his home recuperating from his triple bypass surgery and is not expected to be back to work and able to vote until some time after the recess.

Frist acknowledged that the Estrada debate was being largely overshadowed by the national fears of terror attacks and an impending war in Iraq, but said pushing ahead was “the right thing to do.”

He assured reporters Democrats would eventually yield and Estrada would get confirmed to the bench.

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