Senate Backs Filibuster of Pro-Abortion Nominee Goodwin Liu

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   May 19, 2011   |   2:35PM   |   Washington, DC

The Senate votes today against a motion by Senate Democrats to cut off debate on Goodwin Lui, a pro-abortion law professor President Barack Obama selected to become a judge on a federal appeal court.

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Liu’s nomination for the federal appeals court in the western United States in April on a 10-8 party line vote. Liu, a liberal University of California law professor, faced opposition from Republicans while getting support from each of the Democrats on the committee and Republican lawmakers have filibustered his nomination, calling him too extreme to be approved.

Today’s vote saw Senate Republicans uphold their filibuster 52-43 with Republican senators Lindsay Graham, Dick Lugar, John McCain, Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins and Scott Brown all voting to stop the nomination from moving forward. Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska joined them while “pro-life Democrats” Bob Casey and Joe Manchin voted to allow the nomination of the abortion activist to move ahead.

Lisa Murkowski, a pro-abortion Republican, was the lone GOP vote for ending the filibuster.

During the debate leading up to the vote, Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, a member of the committee, outlined his strong opposition, saying Liu has “activist judicial philosophy is fundamentally at odds with the principles on which our system of government is based.”

“When I look at Professor Liu’s record, I see that he consistently and strongly advocates an approach that allows judges to find the meaning of the Constitution virtually anywhere they want to look,” Hatch said.  “That is the opposite of the defined, limited role that judges properly have in our system of government. I cannot support someone for appointment to the federal bench, especially to what is already the most activist circuit in the country, who believes judges have that much power.”

Senate republican Leader Mitch McConnell agreed, saying, “[Liu] should not be confirmed. I will vote against cloture and I would urge my colleagues to do the same. Liu appears to view the judge as not someone who should interpret the Constitution.”

But Sen. Harry Reid, the number one Democrat, was exasperated on the Senate floor, saying that “it isn’t fair to leave in limbo well-qualified nominees.” But who said he was well-qualified?

Pro-life advocates opposed the nomination, with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council saying, “Administrations come and go, but federal judges last a lifetime. And with the nomination of Goodwin Liu, that’s exactly what the Senate should be worried about.”

“After three tries, the man who said constitutionalism is “nice in theory” will finally get a vote. Liu’s confirmation would be the ultimate achievement for a White House that’s made it their goal to put a permanent, liberal stamp on the court,” Perkins added. “For a man who’s just 39, Liu has managed to rack up quite a resume of radicalism. In fact, his nomination is so controversial that 42 of California’s 58 county district attorneys warned the Senate not to consider him.”

Penny Nance, of Concerned Women for America, told LifeNews: “Liu’s extreme ideologies, especially on an ever-evolving Constitution and made-up rights … are at odds with mainstream America and Concerned Women for America is thrilled he will not have the opportunity to conduct his own social experiments and legislate morality from the bench. Goodwin Liu is everything a judge should not be and we are ecstatic his confirmation has gone the way of eight track tapes.”

As a law professor at Berkeley, Liu has spent the last few years lecturing about his disdain for the U.S. Constitution. “‘…[S]trict construction,'” he wrote in the Stanford Law Review, “[doesn’t] make a lot of sense.

Meanwhile, Curt Levey, executive director of the conservative Committee for Justice, called Liu “the worst of Obama’s nominees at all levels of the federal courts.”

Obama picked Liu for the open federal appeals court seat a year ago, but Republican filibusters kept him from receiving approval in the full Senate — forcing Obama to renominate Liu this January. With Democrats controlling fewer seats now, at 53, they are seven short of the 60 votes needed to stop a filibuster assuming no Democrats peel off and side with Republicans, which may not be the case for some moderates or those facing tough election battles in 2012.

Liu is a liberal abortion supporter who conservative legal guru Ed Whelan observed was so left-wing that former “White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel initially vetoed” his candidacy for the Ninth Circuit “on the ground that Liu’s left-wing record made him too controversial.” But Whelan says new White House counsel Robert Bauer “eager to please the Left, successfully pushed back.”

In December, Democrats gave up on a vote on Liu as a deal brokered between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with White House officials allowed votes on several less controversial nominees but not Liu.

Family Research Council legislative director Tom McClusky has commented on Liu, saying he is “a firm believer in the rule of international law and has shown nothing but disrespect for the Senate Judiciary Committee.”

And Whelen, writing at National Review, says Liu is a problem because he believes the Constitution to be a “living” document, the same view as those jurists on the Supreme Court who invented an unlimited right to abortion throughout pregnancy in the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton cases. “Goodwin Liu has urged judicial invention (usually in an “interstitial” role) of constitutional rights,” he writes.

Liu “presents a volatile mix of aggressive left-wing ideology and raw inexperience,” Whelan adds.

“Liu is closely aligned with various left-wing groups. For example, he is (or recently was) on the boards of directors of the American Constitution Society, the ACLU of Northern California, and the National Women’s Law Center. He apparently practiced law for about two years,” he notes.

Liu has said he believes in the pro-abortion notion of a changing Constitution that can, for example, allow for unlimited abortion rights.

“What we mean by fidelity is that the Constitution should be interpreted in ways that adapt its principles and its text to the challenges and conditions of our society in every succeeding generation,” Liu has said.

Liu clerked for pro-abortion Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, worked in the Clinton administration, and spoke out against Supreme Court nominees John Roberts and Samuel Alito.

ACTION: Contact members of the Senate at to let them know how you feel about their vote.