GOP fil­i­buster blocks Liu for ap­peals court

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SEAN LENGELL

Se­nate Repub­li­cans on May 19 blocked the nom­i­na­tion of Good­win Liu for an ap­peals court judge­ship, ac­cus­ing him of be­ing a lib­eral ac­tivist and hand­ing Pres­i­dent Obama his first ju­di­cial de­feat of the year.

The Repub­li­can-led fil­i­buster also may sig­nal the end of Jan­uary’s gentle­men’s agree­ment be­tween the Se­nate’s party lead­ers de­signed in part to stream­line the ju­di­cial con­fir­ma­tion process.

“Repub­li­cans have demon­strated a great deal of co­op­er­a­tion in mov­ing con­sen­sus nom­i­nees through the Se­nate con­fir­ma­tion process,” said Sen. Charles E. Grass­ley of Iowa, the se­nior Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee. “The prob­lem is that Mr. Liu is far from a con­sen­sus nom­i­nee.”

A pro­ce­dural vote to break the fil­i­buster and al­low the nom­i­na­tion to pro­ceed to­ward a fi­nal straight up-or-down vote re­ceived a 52-43 ma­jor­ity, short of the nec­es­sary 60 votes.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was the only Repub­li­can to vote in fa­vor of break­ing the fil­i­buster. She said ju­di­cial nom­i­nees by pres­i­dents of ei­ther party de­serve up-or-down votes. Sen. Ben Nel­son of Ne­braska was the lone Demo­crat to side with the Repub­li­cans.

The Liu vote is thought to be the Se­nate’s first suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can fil­i­buster of a ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tion.

The pres­i­dent tapped Mr. Liu more than a year ago to fill a va­cancy on the 9th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals, which in­cludes Cal­i­for­nia and much of the rest of the West. His nom­i­na­tion stalled in the Se­nate amid Repub­li­can op­po­si­tion, and Mr. Obama renom­i­nated him for the post in Jan­uary.

In Jan­uary, Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, Ken­tucky Repub­li­can, vowed to use the fil­i­buster less of­ten in ex­change for a prom­ise by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, to al­low Repub­li­cans more op­por­tu­ni­ties to of­fer amend­ments to leg­is­la­tion.

Mr. Liu is the first of 25 ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions sent to the full Se­nate this year who hasn’t been con­firmed.

Repub­li­cans said they op­posed Mr. Liu’s nom­i­na­tion be­cause they wor­ried that the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley law pro­fes­sor would be an ac­tivist judge who would play fast and loose with the Con­sti­tu­tion from the bench. They also cited state­ments he has made sug­gest­ing sup­port of af­fir­ma­tive ac­tion and gay mar­riage as in­di­vid­ual rights.

Mr. Liu’s lack of ju­di­cial ex­pe­ri­ence — the 40-year-old has never served as a trial lawyer or judge — also has been noted.

Mr. McCon­nell said Mr. Liu’s legal writ­ings “re­veal a left-wing ide­o­logue who views the role of a judge not as that of an im­par­tial ar­biter, but as some­one who views the bench as a po­si­tion of power.”

Democrats coun­tered that Mr. Liu is among the bright­est young

The Liu vote is thought to be the Se­nate’s first suc­cess­ful Repub­li­can fil­i­buster of a ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tion.

legal minds in the coun­try and that he has been un­fairly de­mo­nized by the po­lit­i­cal right.

His sup­port­ers said he has re­ceived en­dorse­ments from sev­eral prom­i­nent con­ser­va­tives off Capi­tol Hill, in­clud­ing Ken­neth W. Starr, the in­de­pen­dent coun­sel dur­ing Pres­i­dent Clin­ton’s White­wa­ter and Mon­ica Lewin­sky scan­dals.

Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee Chair­man Pa­trick J. Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat, said he hasn’t been “this dis­ap­pointed in a vote on a ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tion since Se­nate Repub­li­cans voted in lock step to re­ject Mis­souri Jus­tice Ron­nie White in 1999.”

“Pro­fes­sor Liu de­served bet­ter treat­ment than the Se­nate has al­lowed,” Mr. Leahy said. “All Amer­i­cans suf­fer from this fil­i­buster.”

Democrats also ac­cused the Repub­li­can of hypocrisy. When Repub­li­cans con­trolled the Se­nate dur­ing the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion, they said, they rou­tinely chas­tised Democrats for us­ing the fil­i­buster in an at­tempt to block ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions.

“The par­ti­san fil­i­buster of Good­win Liu’s nom­i­na­tion is an­other ex­am­ple of Repub­li­cans’ shift­ing stan­dards on ju­di­cial nom­i­na­tions,” Mr. Leahy said.

Mr. Reid, dur­ing a floor speech be­fore the vote, in­di­rectly called out sev­eral Repub­li­can sen­a­tors for their past sup­port of let­ting ju­di­cial nom­i­nees re­ceive straight up-or-down votes.

Repub­li­cans brushed aside the Democrats’ claim that they were flip-flop­ping on their stance on the fil­i­buster, say­ing Mr. Liu rep­re­sented an ex­tra­or­di­nary and egre­gious case.

“Given his lack of tem­per­a­ment, his poor judg­ment and his ac­tivist view of the role of judges and the law, I’m left with no choice but to fight Pro­fes­sor Liu’s con­fir­ma­tion with ev­ery tool at my dis­posal,” said Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas Repub­li­can and mem­ber of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee.

One Repub­li­can sen­a­tor, Or­rin G. Hatch of Utah, voted “present” when roll was called on Mr. Liu’s nom­i­na­tion. Mr. Hatch had in­di­cated that he op­posed the nom­i­na­tion, but a spokes­woman for the sen­a­tor said “he has al­ways op­posed the ju­di­cial fil­i­buster.”

The Liu de­bate ex­tended far be­yond Capi­tol Hill, as lib­eral, con­ser­va­tive and eth­nic-mi­nor­ity groups saw the nom­i­na­tion fight as a cru­cial test of the pres­i­dent’s abil­ity to leave his mark on the nation’s ju­di­ciary.

Nan Aron, pres­i­dent of the lib­eral Al­liance for Jus­tice, said it was “an ex­tremely sad day for Amer­i­can jus­tice.”

“The vote to sus­tain the fil­i­buster re­lied al­most ex­clu­sively on dis­hon­est and dis­torted at­tacks on Pro­fes­sor Liu’s record and char­ac­ter,” she said.

But Tony Perkins, pres­i­dent of the con­ser­va­tive Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil Ac­tion group, praised the Se­nate’s ac­tion, say­ing it “rep­re­sents a huge set­back for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­fort to put a per­ma­nent, lib­eral stamp on the court.”

“If there were ever a time to draw the line on ju­di­cial ac­tivism, this was it,” Mr. Perkins said.

Also on May 19, the pres­i­dent an­nounced that he was send­ing the Se­nate three more nom­i­na­tions for district court judges.

Mr. Obama tapped Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. for a spot in the South­ern District of New York, James Rod­ney Gil­strap for a judge­ship in the East­ern District of Texas, and Judge Gina Marie Groh for the bench in the North­ern District of West Vir­ginia.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Couldn’t get him through: Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid and Sens. Diane Fe­in­stein, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat, and Daniel Inouye, Hawaii Demo­crat, sur­round thwarted ju­di­cial nom­i­nee Good­win Liu (cen­ter).

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