Professor Liu Filibustered, Why?
Goodwin Liu, professor of law at my college, has been successfully filibustered today in the Senate. Every Democrat voted for cloture except DINO Ben Nelson, and all Republicans voted against cloture except Lisa Murkowski (Orrin Hatch voted “present” as a joke). Murkowski was not a member of the Senate Gang of 14 (which was created in 2006 to inhibit filibusters based purely on the ideology of the nominee) but still asserted Liu did not reach the “extraordinary circumstance” measure created by the group that would warrant a filibuster. Of the Gang of 14, 5 are no longer in the Senate, 4 members voted yes, and 5 voted no. The five who betrayed their former principles were: Ben Nelson (D-NE), Lyndsey Graham (R-SC), John McCain (R-AZ), and the Maine sisters. Examining the reasons for each about-face:
Nelson is in the battle of his life to retain his seat in 2012 (even though he doesn’t have an opponent yet). Nebraska has been veering further towards Republicans since Obama took office and Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle had the audacity to raise taxes (now facing a recall).
Graham relishes moments to appear more conservative than he is, but this is not one of those cases. In his floor speech he reread Liu’s comments about Alito and said Liu would not treat all parties in front of him equally. He also stated that Liu’s characterization of Alito and the standard Liu felt Alito did not meet for confirmation (too ideological) would now be turned on him.
McCain is now a hard-righter so its obvious he would not vote for someone like Liu.
Now the two surprises—Snowe and Collins. Snowe said Liu’s statements were too inflammatory to be objective on the court. Collins released a statement retorting Liu’s assertions that Alito was too extreme by saying it is Liu who is in fact too extreme.
Here are the prevailing reasons for Liu’s filibuster:
1. As Senator Durbin points out, Republicans want to leave as many court vacancies open as possible so that they may fill them with their nominees in the future (Note: Republicans have dominated many aspects of American life by controlling the courts and prioritizing court-packing more then Democrats). From day one, Republicans have made it a mission to obstruct as many Senatorial confirmation votes, such as cabinet positions and court appointments, as possible.
2. Revenge for Liu’s Alito comments. Over and over these comments are being thrown back at him as a testament to his poor temperament or some other trait. The fact is Alito received 72 votes to proceed past cloture and was eventually successful in reaching the high court. Liu lost the battle against Alito, and that should be enough. However, to show the American public how petty the Senate can be, Senator after Senator use Liu’s comments to show that he is too extreme. Very hypocritical.
3. Then there are the specifics about Liu. Liu is very young at 40 years old, and possesses exceptional capabilities. If Liu made it to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it would be a stepping stone to the Supreme Court within 30 years.
This is all very disappointing. The Senate is again showing it is an ill-functioning body with too many powers vested in the minority that has shown it is unwilling to use those powers responsibly. Partisanship is surpassing courtesy and understanding. Democrats will likely remember this event and return the favor, which means more needless strife in future situations.
On the bright side, if I stay in Berkeley to attend law school, I may have him as my teacher.
Update: On August 31, 2011, Liu was confirmed to the California State Supreme Court. Congratulations Professor Liu, your keen legal knowledge will now join two other liberal justices to try to make the California Supreme Court reflect the ideology of the people. I have a feeling you will be Chief Justice during your tenure, unless you are renominated for a higher court…