Republicans in the Senate are poised to block one of the youngest and most promising liberal legal minds from ascending to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit more than a year after President Obama appointed him.
Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) Tuesday night filed a motion to limit debate on Liu’s nomination. The motion requires 60 votes to pass, but Republicans are signaling strong opposition and may have enough votes to sink the motion and effectively filibuster the nomination when it comes to the floor Thursday.
Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL), the current and former ranking members of the Judiciary Committee, released a strongly worded “alert” Wednesday arguing against the confirmation.
If confirmed by the Senate, Liu “would advance his progressive philosophy for years to come, doing incalculable damage to the constitutional system of limited government and federalism envisioned by our founding fathers,” the senators said in the statement.
The 9th Circuit, which covers the West Coast of the U.S. as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona, is considered one of the most liberal circuit courts in the nation.
Supporters say Liu, a U.C. Berkeley law professor, is an exceptionally qualified candidate who follows legal precedent and mainstream judicial American jurisprudence. He is the son of Taiwanese immigrants, graduated from Yale law school, was a Rhodes Scholar and is now a well-respected constitutional law scholar, they say.
The real reason Republicans are opposing him is his age and career prospects, they argue. If given the perch of the Ninth Circuit, at 40, Liu could start building up a record on the bench and eventually become the first Asian-American nominee to the Supreme Court.
Asian-American advocates, and prominent legal scholars, including former Whitewater counsel Kenneth Starr, a Republican have championed Liu since he was first nominated in early 2010. But Republicans have blocked him at every turn, arguing that he has not been forthcoming to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the content of his speeches and writings. Some Republicans also are still seething over his written testimony against Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito in 2006.
“Judge Alito’s record envisions an America where police may shoot and kill an unarmed boy to stop him from running away with a stolen purse … where a black man may be sentenced to death by an all-white jury for killing a white man,” Liu wrote. “I humbly submit that this is not the America we know. Nor is it the America we aspire to be.”
The testimony was “vicious, emotionally and racially charged, very intemperate, and to me it calls into question your ability to approach and characterize people’s positions in a fair and judicious way,” Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) said last year.
Liu acknowledged that this language was “unnecessarily flowery.”