For weeks now, Senate Democrats have complained that appeals-court nominee Miguel Estrada has failed to answer questions about his legal views, leaving senators without enough information to make a decision on whether or not he should be confirmed. In an effort to address those concerns, the White House last week invited any senator who has doubts about Estrada’s views to send him written questions. The White House asked that questions be sent by the close of business last Friday, and pledged that Estrada would answer them by today. “He would answer the questions forthrightly, appropriately, and in a manner consistent with the traditional practice and obligations of judicial nominees, as he has before,” wrote White House counsel Alberto Gonzales in a letter to all 100 senators.
So far, the administration has not received any questions from any senators, according to administration sources.
The non-response from Democrats casts doubt on the party leadership’s repeated contentions that Democrats object to Estrada because he has failed to answer questions about his legal views. Sen. Tom Daschle, the Minority Leader, last month accused Estrada of “stonewalling” and said, “Our issue primarily is ensuring that we have the information upon which to base a decision on Mr. Estrada.”
In addition to Daschle’s remarks, Republicans have gathered a list of other quotes from Democrats during the recent Estrada debate in which senators demanded that Estrada answer more questions. Among them:
“When a nominee does not answer basic questions, the Senate clearly has a constitutional responsibility to ask for the answers.” — Sen. Patrick Leahy, February 26, 2003.
“I believe questions ought to be asked and answered and senators have a right to ask questions and senators have a right to have those questions answered. It is pretty simple.” — Sen. Barbara Boxer, February 26, 2003.
“Is it too much to ask of a person who is being offered a lifetime position to simply answer a few questions?” — Sen. Blanche Lincoln, February 13, 2003.
“The Senate has a right to complete and responsive answers to its questions before confirming someone to a life term on such an important court.” — Sen. Russell Feingold, February 10, 2003.
“We are straining to find some information on which to base a reasoned judgment about his nomination to the second highest court of the land for a lifetime appointment.” — Sen. Richard Durbin, February 26, 2003.
None of those senators — or any other Democrat, for that matter — submitted questions to Estrada.
The Democratic failure to question Estrada opens a new course of debate for Republicans. As the filibuster continues, when a Democratic senator complains that Estrada has failed to answer questions, Republicans will ask whether he or she asked Estrada any questions when the White House invited such inquiries. Republicans, of course, already know the answer. Their goal now is to make sure the public knows, too.