End Obstruction Now on Goodwin Liu, Commentators Say

May 18, 2011

Following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s filing of a petition to force a vote on long-delayed judicial nominee Goodwin Liu, commentators from across the political spectrum have escalated their calls for an end to obstruction of Liu’s nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, the former White House Chief Ethics Lawyer for President George W. Bush, suggests that a vote against cloture would be contrary to the publicly stated positions of many Republican senators.

“A few right wing bloggers at National Review Online and elsewhere have suggested a filibuster, but it is inconceivable that this could happen unless Republican senators ignore what they have been saying about filibusters for a long time,” Painter writes in Legal Ethics Forum, citing prior written and verbal statements by Sens. John Cornyn, Lamar Alexander, Orrin Hatch and others, all of whom have said that judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid made a similar point in a statement following his motion to invoke cloture, saying:

Several years ago we faced a confirmation crisis in the Senate.  The majority at the time, the Republicans, were frustrated with the inefficient way the Senate was performing our Constitutional duty of confirming the President’s nominees.

Many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle passionately argued that all judicial nominees deserve an up-or-down vote on the Senate floor.

Reid notes that there was an exception to the rule that senators had agreed to for “extraordinary circumstances.”

“Everyone agrees that Goodwin Liu’s nomination is far from the ‘extraordinary circumstance’ that would warrant a filibuster,” Reid continued. “The only extraordinary things about Liu are his experience, accomplishments and integrity.”

Norman Y. Mineta, former secretary of Transportation under President George W. Bush and former secretary of Commerce under President Clinton, writes that confirming Liu would address a dearth of Asian Pacific American judges on the federal courts in general, but in particular on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where there are currently no Asian Pacific American judges.  

Citing Liu’s qualifications as an “extremely well-qualified nominee who has the intellectual capacity, experience, temperament and integrity to be an excellent jurist,” Mineta concludes:

If Liu is not confirmed, Asian Pacific Americans may be left with the impression that there continues to be a glass ceiling blocking Asian Pacific Americans from top-level leadership positions regardless of their qualifications.

Blocking Liu’s nomination “because he is too qualified, and might give Obama the chance to nominate the first Asian American to the Supreme Court,” is a “dangerous game for the GOP,” asserts an editorial in The Sacramento Bee. “The Senate could avoid it by confirming Liu.”

The Senate is scheduled to vote on whether to hold a confirmation vote tomorrow. Read all past commentary on Liu’s nomination at Judging the Environment and visit JudicialNominations.org to follow developments, and learn how you can take action.