Response from Senator Pat Toomey on Goodwin Liu Confirmation
(Complete letter from Senator Toomey is at the bottom)
Yesterday, I wrote Senator Toomey (R-PA) regarding his vote opposing a simple majority vote on the confirmation of Goodwin Liu, who was nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals by President Obama. The current rules of the U.S. Senate allow two-fifths of senators to filibuster any piece of legislation or judicial nomination. The only means to defeat the all-powerful minority is to invoke cloture, which requires 60 votes—three-fifths of all senators. Throughout the history of the United States, such measures have been reserved for extreme cases of majority “tyranny” but Republicans have adopted it as their primary means of disabling the Federal government.
Senator Pat Toomey stated, “…legal experience is an important consideration for those who want to serve on the bench.” Senator Toomey’s statement warrants further consideration and examination. Goodwin Liu attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and received his doctorate from Yale Law School. Liu served as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, as well as David S. Tatel, a Court of Appeals judge. Liu has also garnered support from many conservatives including Republican Kenneth Starr, best known for his role in the investigation of the Clinton administration that led to the impeachment of President Clinton. Additionally, Mr. Liu earned the highest rating from the American Bar Association. Lastly, Goodwin Liu is an Associate Dean and distinguished professor at UC Berkeley School of Law. After reviewing his qualifications, it is quite clear that Liu possesses the experience and knowledge necessary to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Many of the senators who voted to prevent a simple up-or-down vote on Goodwin Liu’s confirmation had once promised never to filibuster judicial nominations. In 2005, Senator Mitch McConnell said, “Regardless of party, any president’s judicial nominees, after full debate, deserve a simple up or down vote” (listen). In the ultimate display of hypocrisy, Senator McConnell (R-KY) voted against the motion to invoke cloture, and against his prior position. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who won a write-in campaign in the 2010 midterm elections, was the only Republican who stayed true to her principles and voted to allow the up-or-down vote on Liu’s confirmation.
Republicans have a problem with his academic writing, including criticisms of Justice Samuel Alito, who the Senate confirmed in spite of ideological opposition from Democrats. Despite claims made by Republicans, Goodwin Liu has the legal experience and expertise to be a great U.S. Court of Appeals judge, and maybe even a Supreme Court justice someday. In the end, it is not the fact that Republicans oppose Goodwin Liu’s nomination that leaves so many with a bad taste in their mouth, but rather the abuse of the filibuster whenever Republicans disagree with something on the most basic level. Vote against the exceedingly qualified Goodwin Liu if you wish, but at least have the dignity to allow him a straight up or down vote.
Dear Mr. xxxxxxxx,
Thank you for contacting me about Goodwin Liu, a nominee for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on this matter.
I believe that the Senate’s constitutional role in providing advice and consent for federal judicial appointments is important, and such nominees deserve careful and thorough consideration. I take this responsibility seriously and have supported – and will continue to support – well qualified nominees selected by the President. It is essential that the confirmation process not always be about politics, but rather about getting excellent judges to serve on the federal bench.
I also value your input and understand your views on Goodwin Liu.
After much consideration, I believe that Mr. Liu is not qualified to serve on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. His record unfortunately reflects an ideological deviation from legal precedent and established constitutional principles. Further, he has noticeably little experience in the courtroom – in fact, barely any whatsoever. Such legal experience is an important consideration for those who want to serve on the federal bench. For these reasons, on May 19, 2011, I voted against cloture on Mr. Liu’s nomination. The cloture motion for his nomination failed by a 52-43 vote, and Mr. Liu will not be confirmed by the Senate.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me to share your thoughts on this matter. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of assistance.
U.S. Senator, Pennsylvania