July 13, 2009

Democrats Haunted by Failed Nomination of Hispanic Nominee

Republican Senator Orrin Hatch was the first to mention the failed nomination of Miguel Estrada in hopes of warding off charges of racism against those who question Judge Sotomayor's suitability for the Supreme Court. Estrada, a Honduran immigrant, was nominated by President Bush in 2001 for the DC Circuit Court of Appeals but forced to withdraw his nomination two years later after Democrats in the Senate used a filibuster to block a confirmation vote. It was the first time a filibuster had been used to successfully prevent an appeals court nomination, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist characterized it as a "dark moment" that would generate public backlash against the Senators who participated in the filibuster.

But it was Senator Lyndsey Graham's remarks that struck a nerve with Democrats. Here is an excerpt from Graham's speech (courtesy of Politico):

No Republican would have chosen you, Judge; that's just the way it is. We would have picked Miguel Estrada. We would all have voted for him. And I don't think anybody on that side would have voted for Judge Estrada, who is a Honduran immigrant, who came to this country as a teenager, graduated from Columbia magna cum laude, Harvard, 1986, magna cum laude and Law Review editor, a stellar background like yours, and that's just the way it was.

He never had a chance to have this hearing. He was nominated by President Bush to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, which I think most people agree is probably the second highest court in the land, and he never had this day.

These comments proved to be too much for Chairman Leahy, who interrupted the proceedings in order to "clarify"

Now it was obvious to all observers that the Democrats feared Estrada would be a very likely nominee to the Supreme Court if a vacancy were to appear, which would have given the Republicans the chance to nominate the first Hispanic to the Court, thereby forcing Democrats into the difficult position that Republicans are now facing as opponents to Sotomayor's nomination. So they decided to filibuster Estrada's nomination and were ultimately successful in stonewalling his nomination to the Circuit Court and potentially the Supreme Court. And of course, Republicans are the racists now.

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