Following a Senate vote upholding the filibuster Republicans mounted against the nomination of pro-abortion activist Goodwin Liu for a federal appeals court position, Liu has submitted a letter to President Barack Obama withdrawing his nomination.
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. Last week, the Senate voted 52-43 against stopping the Republican filibuster 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.
“In light of last week’s unsuccessful cloture vote … I respectfully ask that you withdraw my nomination from further consideration by the United States Senate,” Liu wrote to Obama in his letter, according to Politico. “With no possibility of an up-or-down vote on the horizon, my family and I have decided that it is time for us to regain the ability to make plans for the future.”
“In addition, the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit has noted the ‘desperate need for judges’ to fill current vacancies, and it is now clear that continuing my nomination will not address that need any time soon,” he said.
Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the White House, responded to the letter in comments to Politico saying, “Goodwin Liu would have brought extraordinary credentials, great intellect, and an inspirational life story to the bench. We remain disappointed he was not confirmed by the United States Senate but are confident he has a brilliant future. This administration will continue to work diligently to nominate judicial candidates from diverse backgrounds with mainstream views who respect the rule of law.”
Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee and pro-life lawmaker, applauded the withdrawal.
“During consideration of Mr. Liu’s nomination I encouraged the President to withdraw the nomination of Mr. Liu and send a consensus nominee to fill this vacancy,” he said, according to Politico. “I hope the President accepts Mr. Liu’s request so we can finally move forward with a consensus nominee who reflects the mainstream of American views, respects the rule of law and the Constitution, and has an appropriate judicial temperament. As I have pledged and demonstrated, I will work with the President and the Majority to confirm such a nominee.”
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.