September 5, 2003

Embattled Estrada Withdraws as Nominee for Federal Bench

WASHINGTON — Attorney Miguel Estrada, whose appointment to a federal appellate court judgeship was blocked by Democrats in a protracted fight with the Bush White House, asked Thursday that he be removed from consideration.

“I write to ask you to withdraw my pending nomination,” Estrada said in a letter to President Bush. “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.”

Estrada was one of a handful of federal judicial nominees named by Bush who became lightning rods during the Senate confirmation process, where Democrats argued they were too conservative to serve on the nation’s second highest court. Republicans countered that the Democrats were biased, noting that Estrada is Hispanic.

“Mr. Estrada received disgraceful treatment at the hands of 45 United States senators during the more than two years his nomination was pending,” Bush said in a statement.

“Despite his superb qualifications and the wide bipartisan support for his nomination,” he said, “these Democrat senators repeatedly blocked an up or down vote that would have led to Mr. Estrada’s confirmation. The treatment of this fine man is an unfortunate chapter in the Senate’s history.”

The statement was issued on Air Force One as Bush flew to a speech in Kansas City, Mo.

The months long battle came to head in July when Senate Republicans mounted a weeklong effort to get the nominations through. Democrats successfully filibustered that attempt.

Bush aggressively tried to get the Senate to approve Estrada early this year, but has been silent on the issue in recent months.

He staged a series of public events last winter that cast Democratic opposition to Estrada as “purely political” and called Democratic refusal to approve him as a “travesty.”

“Your personal involvement on my behalf has been a particular source of pride and comfort to me,” Estrada said in the letter to Bush.

The president nominated Estrada to a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington more than two years ago. Senate Republicans were never able to get the necessary 60 votes to end the Democratic filibuster and get his nomination to the Senate floor for a vote.

Estrada was never able to get more than 55 votes from the Senate, which has 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent.

Estrada is a Honduran immigrant who graduated from Harvard Law School, served in both the administrations of the first President Bush and the Clinton administration. He now practices law in Washington, D.C.

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