Estrada a Three-Time Loser

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Practice makes perfect, but it doesn't make an appeals court judge.

Senate Republicans have now thrice failed to break a Senate filibuster aimed at preventing Bush nominee Miguel Estrada from being appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

The 55-45 vote Tuesday mimicked Senate tallies in the past three weeks that failed to reach the 60-vote threshold for ending debate and allowing a straight up-or-down vote on Estrada. If confirmed, he would become the first Hispanic on the federal bench.

A straight vote would require only a simple majority, which Estrada would get.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said it was the first time in the Senate's history that three votes to move to the confirmation of a president's nominee had failed on the Senate floor.

"If we continue to filibuster this man, the Senate will be broken, the system will be broken and I think we will have to do what we have to do to make sure that executive nominations get votes once they get on the calendar," Hatch said.

Republicans have accused Democrats of treating Estrada unfairly because he is conservative. Estrada was one of the attorneys who argued President Bush's case in front of the Supreme Court after the 2000 presidential election.

"The problem comes down to this: He's conservative and my colleagues on the other side think that he's pro-life," Hatch said.

Democrats oppose Estrada because they suspect once he gets on the bench he will be too far right to their liking. They say they have no evidence proving otherwise because the Justice Department refuses to turn over documents Estrada authored while an assistant solicitor general in the Clinton administration.

"I think Mr. Estrada should get his vote, as soon as he complies with the request of information from the Senate," said Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

The vote was identical to one taken last week in which every Republican and four Democrats — Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, John Breaux of Louisiana and Zell Miller of Georgia — voted to end debate.

The rest of the Democrats and independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont stood firm.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.