Background: Judicial Politics
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RAY SUAREZ: The man at the center of the Senate fight would be the first Latino to serve on the high-profile, U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Miguel Estrada is a graduate of Columbia and Harvard Law, the Honduran native edited the Harvard Law Review and went on to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. In the ’90s, he was a federal prosecutor in New York and an assistant to the solicitor general, the federal government’s lawyer at the Supreme Court. The problem isn’t his resume, say Democrats, but that he gave senators insufficient information on his legal views at a confirmation hearing last year. They’ve threatened to filibuster and stall a Senate vote until they get the answers they want. It takes 60 votes to cut off debate. Today the top advocate for the nomination fought back. Pres. Bush spoke to a pro- Estrada group called the Latino Coalition.
PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: The senators are applying a double standard to Miguel Estrada by requiring him to answer questions that other judicial nominees over time have not been forced to answer. By blocking a vote on Miguel Estrada, some Democrats in the Senate are flaunting the intention of the United States Constitution.
RAY SUAREZ: In the Senate, where the Estrada debate has stretched into a third week, Democrats blame the White House for the delay.
SPOKESMAN: And we’re trying to get to heart of values. What are his values?
RAY SUAREZ: To learn more about Estrada’s views, Dick Durbin of Illinois and others want the administration to release memos he wrote while at the solicitor general’s office. The White House has refused.
SEN. RICHARD DURBIN: He doesn’t have a body of established opinions as a judge. He doesn’t have an abundance of writings reflecting on his philosophy. He has not answered the questions, which we have asked of him. And we are straining to find some information on which to base a reasoned judgment about his nomination to the second highest court in the land for a lifetime appointment.
RAY SUAREZ: Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said the hold-up is unprecedented.
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: Opponents to Mr. Estrada have contended that he has not answered questions to their satisfactions in the Judiciary Committee hearings. Nominees are not supposed to give their opinions or judgments on hypothetical cases or matters that may come before the court.
SPOKESMAN: Pres. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada.
RAY SUAREZ: Interest groups on each side have taken the debate to the airwaves…
AD SPOKESMAN: But the radical left says he’s not liberal enough. For the first time in history, they’re blocking his nomination with a filibuster.
AD SPOKESPERSON: Where does he stand on civil rights, worker protections, reproductive choice, the environment? He won’t say.
RAY SUAREZ: The Senate continued the Estrada debate late today but it’s unclear when the stand-off will end.