- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 19, 2011

Senate Republicans on Thursday 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 SenateJudiciary 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 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.

SenateJudiciary 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.

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