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Bush Calls on Democrats to Approve Judicial Nominees - 2003-02-22

President Bush says Congress must move faster to approve his judicial nominees to federal courts.

President Bush says there is a vacancy crisis in the federal courts that is being made worse by Democratic senators blocking votes on qualified nominees. Mr. Bush says the delays endanger American justice, because judicial vacancies lead to crowded courts and longer waits for people who want their cases heard.

"It is my responsibility to submit judicial nominations," he said. "It is the Senate's responsibility to conduct prompt hearings, and an up or down floor vote on all judicial nominees. Yet, a handful of Democratic senators, for partisan reasons, are attempting to prevent any vote at all on highly qualified nominees."

Since taking office, Mr. Bush has nominated 34 judges to the federal courts of appeals, and only half have been voted on in the Senate.

The president is particularly frustrated by the treatment of Miguel Estrada, whom he has nominated to the D.C. Court of Appeals, which is generally considered the second-highest court in the land.

If confirmed, the Honduran-born jurist would be the first Hispanic-American to serve on the court. The president says it is "a disgrace" that Mr. Estrada has waited nearly two years for a vote in the Senate.

Mr. Bush says Senate Democrats are "playing politics" with the Estrada nomination, a move he says is unfaithful to the Senate's Constitutional obligations.

Democrats say Mr. Estrada has not given them enough information on where he stands on important court decisions.