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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration Officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Date: May 8, 2003

Today's guest: Counsel to the President Judge Alberto Gonzales

Today's topic: The President's judicial nominees and the nominating process.

     In Focus: Judicial Nominations

Alberto Gonzales

Judge Gonzales
Good afternoon. Thanks for joining me on "Ask the White House". This is an important day to participate in this online discussion as tomorrow is the two year anniversary of the president's first 11 Appeals Court nominations. Of those nominations, four still have yet to receive an up or down vote. Let's get started.

Eddie, from Macon Ga writes:
On todays local news there was a story about a possible lawsuit by Senators Saxby Chambliss Ga and Lindsey Graham SC regarding the democrats blocking of President Bushs nominations. What kind of results or impact do you think will be made by such a move? Thank you!

Judge Gonzales
As the President has said, the Senate has a constitutional responsibility to provide an up or down vote on judicial nominees. Without endorsing any specific approach, we applaud Senators Chambliss and Graham for seeking a solution to a broken process.

Karen, from Needham MA writes:
What are the presidents plans regarding the filibuster against Miguel Estrada?

Judge Gonzales
As the President has said, he intends to stand beside Miguel Estrada until he is sworn in as a judge on the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Miguel is well qualified and represents the American dream. Despite a remarkable record of achievement he is being held to a double standard. The President will continue to work with Senators of both parties to get him the up or down vote he deserves.

Rebecca, from Goshen, Ohio writes:
I was wondering what is it like to work with the President?

Judge Gonzales
Good question, it is an honor to work with George W. Bush. The President is a remarkable person. It is hard to be around the President and not learn, just by watching and listening. It is also hard to be around the President and not like him.

Henry, from Oceanside, California writes:
What does it matter if 2-3 nominees dont get approved? Over 120 already have been. Isnt this a good batting average for the Senate?

Judge Gonzales
Each nominee is entitled to a vote and to be considered on his or her merits. Every qualified nominee should be confirmed in a timely manner. Only half of the President's appeals court nominees have received an up or down vote and nine of the pending nominees have been waiting more than a year for a vote.

Patrick, from Richardson, TX writes:
Though a bipartisan merit selection system for federal judicial appointments would have political drawbacks for whoever is president--such as the loss of a tool to reward core constituencies and an inability to shape the ideological direction of the courts, 1 do you see any advantages from such a system, and 2 could there ever be the political will to seek an institutionalized compromise that would back away from the historic drive to pack the federal courts the impulse behind Marbury v. Madison afterall?

Judge Gonzales
The framers of the Constitution wanted one person to be responsible and accountable for the nomination of federal judges, and the Senate as a whole to vote on the nominees.

Lori, from Corpus Christi, TX writes:
Have you found a good tex-mex restaurant in the nations capital?

Judge Gonzales
My family and I miss Texas and the great Tex-Mex food in Austin...and of course Corpus Christi. Although we love Washington, we look forward to the day we can return to my beloved State. Go Astros!

Shaun, from San Antonio writes:
Judge Gonzales, heres a tough one for you... Dallas Cowboys or Houston Texans?

Judge Gonzales
Houston Oilers!!!!!!!

Gregory, from Sandusky, OH writes:
Since the advise and consent role of Congress, as spelled out in the Constitution, specifically states that a simple majority vote is required, is it not unconstitutional for the Senate Democrats to insist that a 60 favorable vote to break a fillibuster is needed for the whole Senate to vote up or down on a judicial nomination?

Judge Gonzales
The Senate has a constitutional responsibility to provide an up or down vote. It is unprecedented for a minority of Senators to block a vote on an appeals court nominee by means of a filibuster. Both Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen have the support of a majority of Senators, and should receive a vote and be confirmed.

James, from New York, NY writes:
When you say nine appeals court nominees have been waiting for more than one year, are you including Justice Owen and Judge Pickering? They did receive votes, after all, even though the votes were negative. Then the President renominated them when the Republicans regained control of the Senate, and theyve been waiting about four months since then. In fact, is it not disregarding the Senates constitutional function of advice and consent for the President to reappoint nominees who were voted down?

Judge Gonzales
The President continues to support both nominees, believes they deserve a vote, and is confident they will be confirmed. And to clarify, in the last Congress, they did not receive a vote in the full Senate and we know that both would have been confirmed if they received an up or down vote.

Curtis, from Washington, DC writes:
The Senate Democrats have used one of your statements on a Priscilla Owen dissent to discredit her. However, you issued a statement on July 16, 2002 supporting Justice Owen. Can you clarify the discrepency?

Judge Gonzales
There is no discrepancy. I strongly support Priscilla Owen and continue to believe she is well qualified. She is a woman of integrity and will be an outstanding judge on the Fifth Circuit. The fact that she and I disagreed on some opinions is not unusual or noteworthy and does not in any way affect my strong support for her.

Rich, from New York City writes:
What is your reaction to Senator Schumers idea that the President give up his right to nominating judges and hand over the process to unelected and unaccountable boards in the states?

Judge Gonzales
I responded to Senator Schumer's letter earlier this week and advised him that we believed his plan to be inconsistent with the Constitution and would not produce the best qualified judges. We will post my response to the Senator after my online discussion is over. Check back in about 30 minutes.

** Posted at 6:45pm **
Click here to read the letter (in PDF format).

Rafael, from Englewood, Colorado writes:
Does the President employ a litmus test when selecting his nominees?

Judge Gonzales

George, from Maryland writes:
What is it like to work in the White House?

Judge Gonzales
It is an honor. People from all over the world come to Washington and peer through the black iron rod gates for just a glimpse of the President or First Lady. I have yet to meet an American who is not in awe when they step into the White House for the first time. I am proud and privileged.

susan, from Michigan writes:
Will the White House pressure the Senate to hold hearings and confirm the Sixth Circuit nominees from Michigan despite the negative blue slips submitted by Michigans Democrat senators?

Judge Gonzales
There is a vacancy crisis in the Sixth Circuit. The President has four nominees from Michigan to that court pending; three have been pending more than a year without even a hearing. These well qualified nominees deserve hearings and votes. The people of Michigan and the other people in the Sixth Circuit are being harmed by these delays.

Alexander, from Hebron, CT writes:
Mr. Gonzales, Senate Democrats alledge that the Constitutions advise and consent provisions not only empower the Senate to push against a judicial nominee who hasnt fully answered questions, but requires the Senate to do so. How would you respond to those who say that the President shouldnt have nominees rubber stamped.

Judge Gonzales
Your question refers to Miguel Estrada. Mr. Estrada answered questions in an all day hearing, responded to numerous written questions, and met with a number of Senators all to provide information about his qualifications. He provided more information than has been required of past appeals court nominees. He is being held to an unfair double standard. While we do not expect the Senate to rubber stamp the President's nominees we expect the Senate to treat the nominees fairly and give them votes.

Rich, from New York City writes:
Could you and Miguel Estrada take Chuck Schumer and Ted Kennedy in a tag team wrestling match? Could tag team wrestling be a compromise to the gridlock which has kept so many nominees in limbo?

Judge Gonzales
ooops, got to go! Thank you all for joining me today in this on line discussion. Everyone should watch the President's speech tomorrow on judicial independence and the confirmation process at 10:30 a.m. ET. It will be web cast on WhiteHouse.Gov. Thanks again.

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