- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Obama administration’s most contentious judicial nomination yet faces a key test vote in the Senate on Thursday, with Republicans poised to block the nomination of Goodwin Liu on grounds he is a liberal activist who would play fast and loose with the Constitution from the bench.

Democrats counter that the University of California at Berkeley law professor, whom President Obama nominated for a spot on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, has been unfairly demonized by the political right and add that he has received support from several prominent conservatives off Capitol Hill.

The partisan battle could hand Mr. Obama a high-profile judicial defeat and end his perfect streak of judicial nominees clearing the Senate for confirmation in 2011.

Mr. Liu holds a view of the Constitution that can only be described as an activist judicial philosophy,” said Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the SenateJudiciary Committee. “His philosophy leads to an inevitable expansion of the power of the judiciary.”

Many conservatives balk at Mr. Liu’s past involvement with the progressive American Constitution Society and the American Civil Liberties Union. And they have complained about his statements suggesting support of affirmative action and gay marriage as individual rights.

Mr. Liu’s lack of judicial experience - the 40-year-old professor has never served as a trial lawyer or judge - also has been the focus of criticism. Conservatives also have attacked many of his academic writings and called his public words against the confirmations of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Anthony Alito Jr. and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. as tendentious and misleading.

On Tuesday evening, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, used a parliamentary tactic called a cloture motion in an attempt to overcome GOP resistance. The move sets up a procedural vote that will require the support of at least 60 senators before the nomination can proceed toward a final vote.

With the Senate’s two independents, Democrats control 53 of the chamber’s 100 seats.

At least seven Republicans, therefore, must vote against their party line on the Liu nomination - which none did in committee.

Democrats and the White House have pushed hard on behalf of Mr. Liu, who met privately Wednesday with several Senate Democrats at the Capitol.

The professor and Mr. Reid emerged from the meeting smiling but didn’t take reporters’ questions, though the senator warned Republicans that “it would be the wrong thing to do” to block Mr. Liu’s confirmation.

“He’s a good man,” Mr. Reid added.

Sen. Christopher A. Coons, Delaware Democrat, said he was “shocked” and “concerned” about the Republican-led attacks on Mr. Liu.

Professor Liu knows the difference between lecturing and judging,” Mr. Coons said. “He knows that the role of a judge is not to advocate, but to follow the Constitution and the precedents of the Supreme Court.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday said Mr. Liu has “exceptional credentials and mainstream views” who “should absolutely get the up or down vote he deserves.”

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