Republicans block judicial nominee’s confirmation

The nomination of a liberal judicial candidate considered supportive, at least personally, of marriage equality, failed to muster enough votes in the U.S. Senate Thursday, May 19, to bring his confirmation to the floor.

The Senate voted 52 to 43 on a motion for cloture—to end debate on the nomination of California law professor Goodwin Liu. But such motions require 60 votes to pass, so the result blocked a vote for the confirmation vote.

President Obama nominated Liu to serve on the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, where a large number of gay-related cases are working their way through the system.

Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund supports Liu’s nomination. Its legal director Jon Davidson said Liu will make an “excellent judge.” Other LGBT groups agree.

“I think he is extremely well-qualified and will be a tremendously thoughtful, respected judge,” said Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, based in San Francisco.

There is no guarantee that the Proposition 8 case, Perry v. Brown (formerly Perry v. Schwarzenegger), would come before Liu, if he ever is confirmed. The 9th Circuit is comprised of 29 seats; only 11 judges typically sit on an appeal of a three-judge panel’s decision.

But the prospects for getting Liu onto the 9th Circuit now look increasingly dim. Right-wing groups and Republican senators have lashed out against Liu since his nomination, spending considerable time scrutinizing his writings and remarks concerning the right of same-sex couples to marry.

A number of Republicans took to the Senate floor Wednesday and Thursday to deride Liu as a nominee, but there was not nearly as much focus on his reported support for same-sex marriage during debate this week as there was during his two confirmation hearings. Instead, Republicans repeatedly argued that Liu lacks “good judgment” and the proper “temperament” to serve as a judge. Their evidence was primarily Liu’s remarks in the past about prominent conservative justices, Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) implied Liu’s legal philosophy was similar to “communist-run China,” a comparison that some political observers believe had racist overtones. Liu is an Asian-American, his parents being of Taiwanese descent. Liu himself was born in Georgia.

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) criticized Liu for expressing views in seeming support of same-sex marriage, suggesting he would “impose those views” as a judge.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) claimed Liu considered the “traditional definition of marriage as one man and one woman to be unconstitutional.” In fact, Liu testified last year that he told the California legislature, “Proposition 8 should be upheld by the California Supreme Court.”

“Not struck down, but upheld by the California Supreme Court under existing precedents,” Liu told the Senate Judiciary Committee at his first confirmation hearing, in April 2010. “Despite whatever other views I might have had about Proposition 8 on the merits—my personal views, whatever, and even my legal views of the past—I testified before that committee that the California Supreme Court should uphold that proposition in deference to the democratic process.”

Although he did not discuss his personal views on Proposition 8 during the 2010 hearing, Liu told the Los Angeles Times, “there is no question that [Proposition 8] targets a historically vulnerable group and eliminates a very important right.” And he predicted that same-sex marriage will eventually “become an unremarkable thread of our social fabric” and that those opposing it now will eventually be viewed as a “narrow and ultimately temporary majority.”

Liu is a professor of constitutional law at the University of California at Berkeley. He has written extensively about constitutional law but has not served as a judge. His nomination has been endorsed by a number of conservative legal notables, including former independent counsel Kenneth Starr and former Rep. Bob Barr (R-Georgia). He clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In Thursday’s cloture vote, Senator Scott Brown voted no, while Senator John Kerry voted yes. Both California senators voted for cloture. Both Texas senators voted against cloture. The full roll call can be viewed at approximately one hour after the 2:40 vote (eastern daylight time).

3 Responses to Republicans block judicial nominee’s confirmation

  1. John says:

    Hypocrisy! Hypocrisy! Hypocrisy! and see “Extraordinary Hypocrisy … How Republican senators justified their decision to kill the nomination of Goodwin Liu. By Dahlia Lithwick at Slate

  2. mikeijames says:

    i hope president obama considers a recess appointment.

  3. Little man says:

    What distinguishes a person of homosexual behavior is a private characteristic, and since we have the right of privacy, it is not possible to determine it – it could be feigned. Plus a behavior can also be stopped. Who is to know which couple is of homosexual behavior, and which isn’t.

    “Marriage equality” is for people who claim are “different”, but then want to be treated “equally”. Funny!

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