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Bush slams Democrats on Estrada nomination

President rallies Hispanic supporters

Miguel Estrada
Miguel Estrada

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Democrats are applying a double standard to judicial nominee Miguel Estrada and blocking his nomination for "purely political reasons," President Bush charged Wednesday.

Estrada, 42, was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by Bush in May 2001. If approved, the former Honduran would be the first Hispanic to serve on the D.C. appeals court.

Last week, Republicans were unable to stop a Democratic filibuster that blocked a vote on the nomination.

"No one can possibly call Miguel Estrada unfit," Bush told an audience of Hispanic supporters.

Democrats say their opposition has nothing to do with Estrada's judicial philosophy and more to do with his refusal to answer questions about several key court cases, including those dealing with abortion and affirmative action. They point out that Estrada has never served as a judge, meaning he does not have a record of court decisions to present to the committee, as most nominees do.

Democrats also want Estrada's memos from his days at the Justice Department, but the White House has refused to turn them over.

Bush said that partisans are requiring Estrada to respond to questions that other judicial nominees have not been forced to answer. He did not say what the questions were.

"They're blocking the vote on this good man for purely political reasons," Bush told the Latino Coalition.

This fight over Estrada is seen by some as a prelude to a possible battle over a Supreme Court nomination. Estrada's name has been bandied about by some observers as a possible candidate for the nation's highest court. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is viewed as springboard to the Supreme Court; three of the current justice came from that court.

Estrada's nomination to the appeals court has divided Hispanic groups, with some voicing support for his nomination and others outlining their opposition.

Four Democratic senators have announced their support for Estrada, but Republicans still lack the 60 votes needed to force a vote on the nomination.

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