“They’ve been beating us over the head on race relations for months now, yet it’s Democrats that are blocking a Hispanic American from being confirmed to a prestigious court seat,” says a Republican Judiciary Committee staffer. “I don’t see why we aren’t being more aggressive.”
Frist and his Senate leadership are in a bind over Estrada. They don’t have the 60 votes needed to break up a threatened filibuster of the confirmation vote, but it’s not clear that Democrats are strongly committed to such blockage.
“They’ve threatened filibuster before and we’ve blinked,” says the Judiciary staffer. “We ought to call them on it. Fine, knock down a qualified Hispanic American. Here we’ll put up another one who’s even more qualified. Try knocking that one down, too, and see where that gets you.”
That kind of aggressive plan might actually be helpful to Republicans who are desperate to make deep inroads among Hispanic voters around the country. But thus far, the White House and Senate Republican leaders have been hesitant to attempt such a race-based gambit.
“First, it could backfire on us,” says a Justice Department staffer involved in searching out potential court nominees. “Second, we didn’t put Estrada, or any candidate, for that matter, up because of his color or religion. Estrada should be confirmed because he’s qualified. I don’t think we should be lowering ourselves to the Democrats’ level on these issues.”
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