FLASHBACK: Dick Durbin’s Office Sought To Block Bush’s ‘Latino’ Court Nominee

Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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When Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin played the race card Wednesday against Republicans blocking Loretta Lynch’s attorney general nomination, he must have forgotten all of the times he opposed Republican minority nominees.

In one of those instances of obstinance, Durbin’s Senate staff submitted a memo in 2001 asserting that George W. Bush U.S. Appeals Court’s nominee Miguel Estrada was an “especially dangerous” prospect because “he is Latino.”

On Wednesday, Durbin took to the Senate floor to accuse Republicans of forcing Lynch, who is black, “to sit in the back of the bus” until a vote on a controversial sex trafficking bill is resolved.

Durbin’s dramatic statement was a reference to civil rights icon Rosa Park’s refusal to move to the back of a Montgomery, Ala. bus in 1955.

Durbin said Republicans were treating Lynch unfairly by blocking her from becoming “the first African-American woman” attorney general. If approved by the Senate, Lynch will replace Eric Holder, the first African-American to hold that office. (RELATED: Dem Senator Accuses GOP Of Forcing Loretta Lynch ‘To Sit In The Back Of The Bus’)

It was Nov. 7, 2001, when a staffer in Durbin’s office sent a memo summarizing a meeting with “representatives of various civil rights groups” to discuss Estrada’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

The memo showed that one of the reasons Democrats wanted to block confirmation of the Honduras-born Estrada was because he is Latino.

The meeting “focused on identifying the most controversial and/or vulnerable judicial nominees, and a strategy for targeting them,” Durbin’s staffer wrote in the memo which was published only in Nov. 2003, months after Estrada withdrew his name from consideration after a protracted battle with Democrats.

“They also identified Miguel Estrada [D.C. Circuit] as especially dangerous, because he has a minimal paper trail, he is Latino, and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment,” Durbin’s staffer wrote.

A Durbin spokesman issued a statement at the time claiming that the memo was not meant to be a racial attack on Estrada but, rather, political in nature.

The same claim could easily be made about Republicans’ hesitation to confirm Lynch.

Besides his opposition to Estrada, Durbin opposed two other minority Bush nominees. In 2005, he voted against Bush’s nominee for secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice. Also in 2005, he was outspoken in his opposition of Bush’s U.S. Court of Appeals nominee, Janice Rogers Brown. Both Rice and Brown were eventually confirmed. Like Lynch, both are black.

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