WASHINGTON (AP) – Miguel Estrada, whose nomination became a
flash point for Democratic opposition to President Bush’s judicial
choices, withdrew from consideration for an appeals court seat
yesterday after Republicans failed in seven attempts to break a
Senate filibuster.

President Bush called Estrada’s treatment “disgraceful.” But
Senate Democrats said he was a casualty of the White House’s
insistence on stacking federal appeals courts with conservative
ideologues.

“This should serve as a wakeup call to the White House that it
cannot simply expect the Senate to rubber-stamp judicial nominees,”
said Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass), one of the leading opponents to
Bush’s nominees.

Republicans, however, promised to push forward on other Bush
nominees who have been blocked by filibusters.

“(Yesterday was) a shameful moment in the history of this great
institution,” said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), in
a speech on the Senate floor. “The United States Senate has been
denied the right to confirm or reject a brilliant and qualified
nominee because of the obstruction of a few.”

For Estrada – who at one point was rumored to be a possible
Supreme Court nominee – the withdrawal ends a two-year waiting game
in which his nomination for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit never got beyond the Senate floor.

“I believe that the time has come to return my full attention to
the practice of law and to regain the ability to make long-term
plans for my family,” he said in a letter to Bush.

Estrada, who was in Miami yesterday, told reporters there he had
nothing to add to his letter.

Estrada, 41, a private attorney who had never served as a judge,
wanted a seat on the D.C. Circuit, which currently is split evenly
between Republican and Democratic appointees. The court decides
important government cases involving separation of powers, the role
of the federal government, the responsibilities of federal
officials and the authority of federal agencies.

Democrats argued that Estrada and Bush’s other blocked nominees
are too conservative to serve on the court, the regional courts
that handle federal court appeals around the nation. They pressed
Estrada to make clear his views on issues like abortion rights, but
he declined.

The White House refused Democrats’ request for the release of
internal memos Estrada had written while serving in the office of
the solicitor general in the administration of Bush’s father.

Republicans, in turn, accused Democrats of bias against Bush’s
nominees. They sought to portray Estrada, a Honduran immigrant who
graduated from Harvard Law School, as a modern-day Hispanic Horatio
Alger and accused Democrats of being anti-Hispanic.

 

 

 

 

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