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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.

Alberto Gonzales

     In Focus: Judicial Nominations

September 9, 2003

Judge Gonzales
Howdy, happy to be here to answer your questions.

John, from Maryland writes:
Are you disappointed in Miguel dropping out? Did he let the Administration down?

Judge Gonzales
I am disappointed whenever any well qualified American is discouraged from serving our country. Miguel did everything requested by this White House in connection with his nomination- he did not let the Administration down.

Megan, from Johnson City, TN writes:
Why was Miguel Estrada so important to the Administration anyway? Everyone can be replaced.

Judge Gonzales
The judiciary is an important branch in our system of government and the decisions of the men and women who serve as federal judges will have a tremendous impact on the lives of every American. For this reason, the President nominates men and women who are of the highest professional quality. They are of the highest character and integrity and believe in a philosophy that represents the mainstream of American jurisprudence. Miguel would have made an excellent judge. His withdrawal is a loss for the American people.

Eugene, from Oregon writes:
Given that Estrada's withdrawal was due solely to the filibuster, I am wondering if the White House be open to any sort of compromise solution to this problem. Perhaps the administration and the Senate could agree to officially institute President Bush's earlier proposal whereby he agrees to nominate candidates within 180 days of receiving notification of a vacancy and the Senate guarantees that nominees will receive a Judiciary Committee hearing within 90 days and a full Senate vote within 90 days of that. In return for such a guarantee for every nominee, perhaps the standard for confirmation could be raised to 60 votes, thereby ensuring true bipartisan support for all confirmed nominees as well as eliminating the use of the filibuster. Would the White House be willing to consider of compromise of this sort?

Judge Gonzales
The most important point is that all nominees receive an up or down vote regardless of who is in the White House or which party controls the Senate. This is why the President proposed a plan last October that would ensure timely votes for all nominees. The changes that would be required to effectively deal with filibusters would have to be instituted by the Senate. The White House remains willing to work with the Senate so that the President's nominees receive an up or down vote in a timely fashion.

Jared, from Pennsylvania writes:
In the wake of Mr. Estrada's decision to remove his name from the list of judicial nominees, thus successfully forced out by those in the Senate who refuse to allow any even moderately conservative justice to be appointed as a federal judge, how will you - and by extension, the White House - respond? Will future nominees be chosen on a basis of having an ideology of which Senator Kennedy would approve, will more moderate justices be chosen, or is the plan to stay the course with strict constitutionalist judicial nominees? Furthermore, is there a point where stronger tactics, including the so-called nuclear option, might be utilized?

Judge Gonzales
The President has been guided by certain principles in his nomination of judges, these principles will not be compromised as a result of this recent action. We believe the President's nominees will not legislate from the bench, they will respect precedent, and they will adhere to the rule of law.

Theresa, from Los Angeles, California writes:
why does the administratin believe it has the unfettered right to ram a nominee down the throat of the Senate without alloeing the nominee to respond to the legitimate inquiries of Senators in the discharge of their Constitutional duties? How dare the demagogues in the Republican party try to make the withdrawal of Mr. Estrada's nomination a racial issue? You all should be ashamed.

Judge Gonzales
Miguel answered more questions than the three Clinton nominees to the same court combined. The offer by the White House to have Miguel meet with Senators and answer written questions was ignored repeatedly. Democrats requested sensitive internal deliberative memos written by Miguel while he worked in the Department of Justice, memos that every living former solicitor general (Democratic and Republican) say should not be released. We believe that the Senate had ample information about Miguel to allow a vote. Certainly the ABA had enough information to rate him well qualified. Additionally, a majority of the Senate had enough information about Miguel to indicate that they would vote in favor of his confirmation. I am proud of this nomination.

Robert, from Houston, Texas writes:
Sir, As the Senate refuses to serve the nation by allowing these nominees to come to a vote, would it be possible for the President to alleviate this crisis through the use of recess appointments? Thank you.

Judge Gonzales
The President does have the power under the Constitution to make recess appointments, including federal judicial nominees.

Scott, from Washington, DC writes:
President Clinton is known to have consulted with Senator Hatch before nominating judges to the bench. How come President Bush has not extended a similar offer to Senator Leahy, in the hopes of heading off more contentious confirmation battles? In my view, to not do so would seem to read advice right out of the Constitution, and only ask the Senate to consent to the controversial judges being nominated by the White House.

Judge Gonzales
This White House has engaged in unprecedented consultation with members of the Senate - Republican and Democratic - regarding our judicial nominees.

Kevin, from California writes:
First of all I would like to say thank you for your excellent career and public service. Although this should have never happend to you, I feel the Republicans let you down by not fighting this filibuster 247 on the Senate floor. Do you feel let down also?

Judge Gonzales
Thanks Kevin, I do feel let down that certain democrats chose these obstructionist tactics to deny such a quality individual the opportunity to serve our country.

Judge Gonzales
Thank you for your excellent questions, I am sorry I did not have time to answer them all. Have a great weekend. I encourage all of you to let your Senators know how you feel. Thanks again.

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