Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday moved to bring the judicial nomination of Goodwin Liu to the floor, setting up a potential Thursday vote on the controversial nominee.
The action begins the nail-biting push for the 60 votes that will allow Liu’s long-standing nomination to move forward. Liu was first nominated to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals more than a year ago, but his nomination stalled due to opposition by Republican senators who object to some of his controversial scholarly writings and his relative lack of experience as a judge.
Liu, a professor and associate dean at the University of California-Berkley school of law, failed to receive Senate approval in the last Congress and faces a tough formal road through a more closely divided Senate this time around. Some Republicans have criticized Liu for what they say is his support for an activist approach to the law and for writing judgments in favor of more socially liberal positions like same-sex marriage.
Reid, in making his case for confirming Liu, pointed to the bipartisan Gang of 14 that struck a compromise in 2005 to avert sentorial abuse of the filibuster in opposition to George W. Bush’s nominees.
“Everyone agrees that Goodwin Liu’s nomination is far from the ‘extraordinary circumstance’ that would warrant a filibuster. The only extraordinary things about Liu are his experience, accomplishments and integrity,” Reid said on the floor Tuesday night.
“I think he should be confirmed unanimously. At the very least, he undoubtedly deserves an up-or-down vote. But Senate Republicans have already forgotten the lessons of the nuclear option. Today, they are threatening to block this highly qualified nominee from confirmation,” Reid said.
Reid is slated to meet with Liu Wednesday, along with Democrats Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii and Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer of California. If confirmed, Liu would be the only Asian American on the Ninth Circuit’s appellate bench.
The White House also plans to signal its strong support for Liu’s nomination by sending White House Counsel Bob Bauer to accompany Liu Wednesday when the nominee is scheduled to make the rounds on Capitol Hill.
“Goodwin Liu is a mainstream, well-qualified judicial nominee of great intellect, with a compelling personal story as the son of immigrants, who has achieved tremendous success at a young age,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the White House.
Tuesday’s action is Reid’s latest attempt to move a judicial nomination forward over GOP opposition. Earlier this month, Reid moved forward with the nomination of Jack McConnell to the U.S. District Court in Rhode Island. McConnell ultimately was approved with the support of 11 Republicans.
Tuesday night, Reid lamented having to hold a vote to stave off a filibuster of Liu.
“So I am forced now to file cloture in order to ensure Goodwin Liu gets the vote he deserves. It’s regrettable that it has come to this,” Reid said. “I remind my Republican colleagues once again that public servants are not political pawns.”
To his advocates in the Asian-American community and among progressive Democrats, Liu, 40, is seen as having an intellect that could ultimately propel him to the nation’s highest court.
Liu’s advocates remain hopeful that some Republicans, especially a small group of senators who have never voted against cloture for a judicial nominee, will allow Liu’s nomination to finally reach a full vote on the Senate floor.
“We’ve actually always felt that we had the votes and it was a matter of calling for it,” said Karen Narasaki, president of the Asian American Justice Center. “While the politics of it have been loud and harsh at the end of the day we think it’s going to be very difficult for a lot of people to vote against cloture for a judicial nomination.
“Actually voting to stop him from getting an up or down vote will actually be viewed as very hostile,” to the Asian-American community, Narasaki added, who also noted that May is Asian American Heritage Month.