WASHINGTON — A coalition of Asian Pacific American groups on Thursday called the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass a cloture vote on judicial nominee Professor Goodwin Liu a travesty of the democratic process.
Liu was nominated by President Obama to fill a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The vote on a petition for cloture — which would have ended debate and allowed for a full Senate vote on Liu’s merits — failed 52 to 43, with one senator voting “present.” Four senators did not vote. Sixty votes are required to end debate. A simple majority of votes is needed for a vote on the merits of a judicial nomination. The complete voting record can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/goodwinvote
“We are outraged that the Senate failed to allow Professor Liu the decency of an up-or-down vote,” said Paul O. Hirose, president of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA). “Although a bipartisan majority of the Senate was prepared to vote on Professor Liu — and, we believe, a similar majority was prepared to confirm him — Professor Liu has been denied this opportunity because of obstructionism. We are deeply troubled that an exceptional nominee who would also add much needed diversity to the federal bench is denied even a vote by the Senate.”
“The failure to allow Professor Liu an up-or-down vote is appalling,” said Karen K. Narasaki, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC). “Asian Pacific Americans are vastly underrepresented in the federal appellate courts, where there is only one active Asian Pacific American judge. Especially during Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, it is shameful that a well-qualified Asian Pacific American nominee has been denied the opportunity to serve his country as a federal judge because of extreme partisanship and ugly distortions of his record.”
In yesterday’s edition of The Hill, Norman Mineta, a Cabinet secretary in the previous two administrations, opined on the importance of the nomination to the Asian Pacific American community, stating, “Liu is an extremely well-qualified nominee who has the intellectual capacity, experience, temperament and integrity to be an excellent jurist. If Liu is not confirmed, Asian Pacific Americans may be left with the impression that there continues to be a glass ceiling blocking Asian Pacific Americans from top-level leadership positions regardless of their qualifications.”
Mineta was the first Asian Pacific American member of the Cabinet when President Bill Clinton named him secretary of commerce. He then became secretary of transportation under President George W. Bush.
Asian Pacific American leaders also were troubled by an apparent double standard applied to judicial nominees. “Numerous Republican senators have repeatedly stated that they believed that filibustering judicial nominees is unconstitutional, and that they believed that all nominees deserved an up-or-down vote,” explained NAPABA Executive Director Tina Matsuoka. “For these same senators to treat prior judicial filibusters as historical precedents and models of Senate behavior suggests that politics has triumphed over principles. Professor Liu, the Asian Pacific American community, and the American public are the victims. In contrast, we applaud Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who had the courage to stand by her ‘no filibuster’ pledge.”
Liu had the support of a broad collection of groups and individuals, including numerous Republicans and conservatives. Many faith-based, labor, civil rights, Latino, and African American organizations joined the Asian Pacific American community in support of confirmation.
NAPABA and AAJC thanked Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (both D-Calif.), who advocated vigorously on Liu’s behalf, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) for their efforts in securing a vote on the nomination. The organizations also thanked Obama for nominating Liu last year.
National JACL Executive Director Floyd Mori: “We are extremely disappointed that politics won over merit and fairness. Goodwin Liu is one of the most highly qualified to sit on the bench. The nation missed a chance to move the quality of our judiciary system up a notch.”
Rep. Judy Chu (D-Monterey Park), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC): “Our country, our justice system and the districts served by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals were denied an outstanding judge because of political games played by the Senate. A majority of senators recognized that Professor Goodwin Liu’s stellar judicial record speaks for itself. Unfortunately, a minority decided to deny him the up-or-down vote he deserved, placing partisanship above the needs of our justice system.
“There continues to be a dearth of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) on the federal bench. More than 40 percent of our nation’s Asian American population lives in the area in which the Ninth Circuit has jurisdiction over, yet no Asian Americans serve on the Ninth Circuit bench. If given the opportunity to receive a fair vote on the Senate floor, Professor Liu would have become the only active AAPI judge on the Ninth Circuit and only the sixth AAPI appellate court judge in U.S. history. The federal court must represent the diverse makeup of the American people.
“I thank Majority Leader Reid and Sen. Feinstein for their leadership throughout this process, and I am grateful to President Obama for nearly doubling the number of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders serving on the federal bench through his judicial nominations. While Goodwin Liu was denied a fair vote, this will not deter CAPAC from its commitment to promoting the confirmation of qualified judicial nominees who reflect the diverse makeup of our society.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.): “It is an outrage that Senate Republicans have blocked the nomination of Goodwin Liu, an exceptionally well-qualified and mainstream judicial nominee who is widely admired, even by leading conservative legal scholars.
“Professor Liu represents the best of America – a Rhodes Scholar who helped launch AmeriCorps and rose to become one of the nation’s most distinguished constitutional law experts. It is a sad day for our country when we reject a brilliant young legal scholar who would have been the only Asian American serving on the Ninth Circuit, which is home to more than 40 percent of our nation’s Asian American population.
“I believe the ramifications of this Republican filibuster will be deeply felt in California and across the country. When we deny a judicial nominee of Professor Liu’s caliber – a man of intelligence, integrity and dignity – we weaken our nation’s legal system.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee: “The partisan filibuster of Goodwin Liu’s nomination is another example of Republicans’ shifting standards on judicial nominations. I have not been this disappointed in a vote on a judicial nomination since Senate Republicans voted in lock step to reject Missouri Justice Ronnie White in 1999. Professor Liu deserved better treatment than the Senate has allowed. All Americans suffer from this filibuster.”