Democrats Again Defeat Cloture Motion on Estrada

Posted March 13, 2003 at 3:47pm

For the second time in as many weeks, Democrats rebuffed Republican efforts to end debate over Miguel Estrada, the controversial appeals court nominee.

There were no new Democratic defections in the 55-42 vote — 60 are required to invoke cloture — but three Democrats were not present: Sens. John Kerry (Mass.), John Edwards (N.C.) and Joseph Biden (Del.).

Sen. Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who some believed was on the fence, sided with his fellow Democrats. Graham was not present for the first cloture vote.

Republican Conference Chairman Rick Santorum (Pa.) accused Democrats of adopting an obstructionist stance, noting they also blocked votes on three other judicial nominees. There have been unanimous consent motions to bring up other nominees but Democrats have objected.

Democrats say they will allow an actual vote — the cloture motion is purely procedural — on Estrada if he turns over documents from his time with the Justice Department.

Republicans say that would be unprecedented and raise the bar on future nominees.

It would be a “historic change in procedure,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said.

“That’s just not true,” said Jay Carson, a spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle (D-S.D.), noting that past nominees have turned over “more sensitive” documents.

For example, he said, Chief Justice William Rehnquist gave Congress access to personal memos he wrote when he was a presidential attorney.