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After Day Off, Senate to Resume Estrada Battle Monday

The Senate took a snow break Friday but will return Monday to continue debating judicial nominee Miguel Estrada.

For weeks now, Democrats have blocked a vote on President Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. They object to an up-or-down vote until the Honduran immigrant answers questions regarding his judicial philosophy.

Republican leaders say holding Estrada to a higher standard than other appellate court nominees is unfair. Therefore, they refuse to seek cloture — which would end debate and force a vote — because that would set a bad precedent.

A cloture motion requires 60 votes while a nomination approval only necessitates a majority.

The Senate will resume debate at noon Monday but allow a vote around 5:30 p.m. on a less controversial judicial nominee.

Republicans began calling Democrats obstructionist almost before the informal filibuster even began.

“It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ every day,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman George Allen (Va.) said Feb. 14, referring to the Bill Murray movie in which his character relives the February holiday endlessly.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which opposes Estrada’s appointment, said the group would continue to fight and expect Senate Democrats to maintain the filibuster for “as long as it takes,” spokeswoman Vanessa Gonzalez said.

Meanwhile, it will be business as usual in the House.

There will be no votes before Tuesday evening, at which time Members will consider noncontroversial suspension bills.

Wednesday, the House will take up a similarly innocuous trade corrections bill, something it does every Congress, according to a Ways and Means Committee spokeswoman.

Then the chamber will move on to the Social Security Protection Act, which is designed to help beneficiaries who have been swindled by their account managers.

Many recipients are not mentally or physically able to manage their financial affairs and have third parties do it for them. Congress is concerned about abuse in the program.

On Thursday, the Armed Forces Tax Fairness Act will be on the floor. The bill aims to give members of the armed and foreign services tax breaks.