Goodwin Liu: To filibuster or not to filibuster

With Republicans about to occupy more seats in the U.S. Senate, the rhetorical battle over President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees – including one from here in the East Bay – has re-ignited.

Goodwin LiuThe President in February nominated Goodwin Liu, professor and associate dean at the University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall Law School, to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Senate Judiciary Committee in May voted 12-7 along party lines to send Liu to the full Senate for confirmation, but amid threats of a filibuster, the Senate sent the nomination back to the President in August, refusing to debate and vote before adjourning for its month-long recess. The president resubmitted his nomination in September, and the Judiciary Committee once again voted 12-7 that month to send the nomination to a floor vote.

Now Senate Democrats might try to bring Liu’s nomination and several others to a vote as early as tomorrow. Some conservative leaders sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on Monday urging him not to force any votes on judicial nominees during this lame-duck session, and Americans for Limited Government issued a statement today urging Senate Republicans to filibuster any such effort.

“Senate Republicans are under no obligation to support nominees or provide political cover for the other side of the aisle,” ALG President Bill Wilson said. “Goodwin Liu is an extra-constitutional thinker who believes that the eligibility requirements for ObamaCare and other ‘welfare rights’ are perfectly within the scope of courts to interpret. With him on the bench, a single-payer system could be just one court decision away. The American people cannot take that chance.”

“Liu also has an expansive view of the Commerce Clause, and does not even hold as an ‘absolute requirement’ that an activity even be economic in order for it to be regulated. Guess what? That encapsulates all activity,” Wilson continued. “These radical judicial picks, re-nominated by Obama, remind the American people of why judges matter. It is up to the Senate Republicans to put the brakes on nominees whose extralegal views warp and distort the Constitution and thus undermine the rule of law. America does not need more ideologues on the bench.”

But even as the Senate might take up Liu’s nomination tomorrow, the American Constitution Society will be hosting a panel discussion at the National Press Club “to discuss Senate obstruction and the nominee pipeline, and provide an insiders’ perspective on nomination hearings and the political struggles behind them.”

UPDATE @ 11:55 A.M.: I see now that Richard Painter – formerly President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, now a law professor supporting Liu’s confirmation – blogged today that some conservatives aren’t listening to their own words from a few years ago regarding up-or-down votes for judicial nominees:

Public opinion of Members of Congress (both parties) these days is lower, far lower, than it was in the days when Senator Henry Cabot Lodge used just the right term to describe what he saw going on when Senators filibustered legislation. Those of us who care about the future of the judiciary should make it clear that the delay must stop.

This does not mean the Senators should vote “yes”. They can vote “no”. But they should vote.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.