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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Judicial Nominee Miguel Estrada Withdraws His Name

Aired September 4, 2003 - 10:12   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We, meanwhile, are following a developing story in Washington this hour, Miguel Estrada, a judicial nominee, withdraws his name.
Dana Bash is at the White House with more on that. It's significant politically in the judicial battles between the White House and Democrats in Congress.

Dana -- hello.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Daryn.

You said it. And as a matter of fact, the judicial fight has been really the biggest partisan battle between of this White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill, and Miguel Estrada and his nomination really topped -- was the biggest battle in the fight.

Miguel Estrada is 41 years old, and he was nominated to be the appellate court judge here in the District of Columbia. And according to several GOP sources, he has pulled out. He has withdrawn his nomination.

He was nominated more than two years ago, and he wrote a letter to President Bush that, sources say, really explains that he has been waiting too long, and that it is taking a toll on his family and on his private practice. He practices law here in Washington.

Now, Republicans are saying that this is evidence of Democrats really just trying to make politics out of the judicial process. That is what they have been saying for some time.

Democrats, however, say that they held up Miguel Estrada's nomination -- and actually they filibustered the nomination on the Senate floor, which is quite rare. And they did so, they say, because first of all they believed he was too conservative. And more importantly, they said that they just simply did not have enough information about his record.

Estrada is somebody who worked for the Justice Department for years, and the Democrats said they had trouble getting some of his papers, some of his views from him, and that is part of the reason why they say they held his nomination up.

Republicans this morning are saying that this is a tragedy, that Estrada, who was a Honduran immigrant, was somebody who would have been very good for the bench. They say that this could have some political ramifications, because he is somebody who is Latin American. This is, of course, a sector of the population that Republicans are trying to court. And Republicans are hoping that the fact that Democrats, they say, torpedoed Estrada's nomination will help Republicans with the Latino vote.

But Republicans are saying that this is something that they will continue to fight in terms of the future and future nominees who are also -- many of whom are also stuck on the Senate floor -- Daryn.

KAGAN: I was going to say, Dana, this does not make the judicial controversy go away. There is still plenty more candidates trying to be confirmed.

BASH: There sure are. Priscilla Owen is one. She is somebody who also has been the subject of a Democratic filibuster.

Democrats would say, and will say later on -- we understand they're going to have a press conference later on this morning -- they would say that they believe that it is their duty not to rubber-stamp the nominees that the president sends up, that they need to know exactly what these nominees believe in, and they need to make sure that they, in the words of Democrats, are in the mainstream of America.

And this, as you said, is not the end of this battle. There are still many more nominees left to be decided -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Dana Bash at the White House. Dana, thank you for that.

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