Filibusters are offensive and wrong … unless Republicans are doing it

Posted on May 19, 2011


The Senate just voted by a 52-43 majority to end the GOP’s filibuster of Professor Goodwin Liu’s nomination to a federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals — which, in the bizarro world that is the U.S. Senate, means that Liu’s nomination will not move forward. The vote was entirely along party lines, except that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) voted “yea” and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) voted “nay.”

Republicans view the Asian American professor, the child of Taiwanese immigrants, as a progressive-minded theoretician with an expansive view of rights under the U.S. Constitution. They pointed to “objectionable” articles Liu has authored in legal periodicals in which he expressed support for individual rights to education and child care.

Individual rights to education and child care?!?  How ludicrous, right?  The man must obviously be put down for having such heretical thoughts as to promote ridiculous and radically harmful (and probably Marxist if the teabaggers get hold of this) ideas like education and the well-being of children.

Just six short years ago, Republicans sang a very different tune when it came to judicial filibusters. Senate Republicans nearly unanimously declared filibusters of judicial nominees to be a horrific betrayal of their constitutional role. Many Republicans declared outright that judicial filibusters are inarguably unconstitutional. But now that Republicans control the House, it’s a whole different song.

Here is a representative sample of how current GOP senators felt about such filibusters when a Republican was in the White House:

I would never filibuster any President’s judicial nominee, period. I might vote against them, but I will always see they came to a vote.” ~ Lamar Alexander (R-TN)

Every judge nominated by this president or any president deserves an up-or-down vote. It’s the responsibility of the Senate. The Constitution requires it.” ~ Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA)

If you look at the Constitution, it says the president is to nominate these people, and the Senate is to advise and consent. That means you got to have a vote if they come out of committee. And that happened for 200 years.” ~ Tom Coburn (R-OK)

We have a Democratic leader defeated, in part, as I said, because I believe he was identified with this obstructionist practice, this unconstitutional use of the filibuster to deny the president his judicial nominations. The very idea of filibustering a presidential nomination of a judge is offensive to our nation’s constitutional design.” ~ John Cornyn (R-TX)

Until this Congress, not one of the President’s nominees has been successfully filibustered in the Senate of the United States because of the understanding of the fact that the Constitution gives the President the right to a vote.” ~ Mike Crapo (R-ID)

It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60, and that’s essentially what we’d be doing if the Democrats were going to filibuster.” ~ Chuck Grassley (R-IA)

The Constitution of the United States is at stake. Article II, Section 2 clearly provides that the President, and the President alone, nominates judges. The Senate is empowered to give advice and consent. But my Democratic colleagues want to change the rules. They want to reinterpret the Constitution to require a super-majority for confirmation. It is not the Senate’s job to pass judgment on judicial appointments.” ~ Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Sadly, this willingness to declare something unconstitutional when it suits them and then pretend the Constitution says something entirely different when the political winds change is par for the GOP’s course. Republicans invented a previously unheard of constitutional objection to the Affordable Care Act, they’ve called everything from Social Security to Medicare to child labor laws unconstitutional, and they’ve even pretended that the Constitution allows them to strip Americans of their citizenship.

And what are Republicans saying today about the exact same political maneuver they cried about six years ago now that a Democrat is in the White House?

Liu has become one of the stars of the left-wing liberal universe. I’m really concerned about this nomination and I stand convinced that it shouldn’t move forward. The president cannot just appoint anyone he wants to these seats. There has to be a commonality. There has to be consideration of what’s best for America.” ~ Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

They filibustered Miguel Estrada, an extremely well-qualified nominee of President Bush’s seven times, and hung up a huge number of his judges. So all we did today was simply follow the new norm in the Senate. They did it. So we did it. This nominee is precisely the kind of judge we want to prevent from getting on the bench.” ~ Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

So this is what your “esteemed elected leaders” have reduced themselves to – petty spite, childish revenge, and a never-ending game of pin the blame on the other party.

Like other Republicans, McConnell argued Liu has no experience as a lawyer or judge. Many of these same Republicans stamped their feet and cried foul when Democrats (and many Republicans) opposed George W. Bush’s nomination of Harriett Myers for the United States Supreme Court – even though Myers had never practiced law for a single day and had never served as a judge. Her entire career was as a legal advisor to politicians, the Bush family in particular, and McConnell called it “an unfortunate travesty of justice” that her nomination was opposed and defeated.

And what was Cornyn’s thoughts on the Harriet Myers nomination five years ago, knowing she’d never worked as an attorney or judge, “I know Harriett Myers to be eminently qualified for the bench because of her outstanding legal academic background and her years of experience in the law here in Washington. I don’t believe one has to be a judge or have an extensive career practicing law to know how to interpret the law.” But of Elena Kagan, Cornyn said out of his other face, “She’s been a legal academic at Harvard and worked here in Washington, DC. I’m happy to hear how she thinks those qualifications qualify her for the highest court. But those achievements certainly they don’t put her in touch with the impact of the law on average, everyday citizens. Ms. Kagan has spent her entire professional  career in Harvard Square, Hyde Park and the DC Beltway. These are not the places where one learns how ordinary people live.”

The double-standard is so thick, even Sarah Palin couldn’t shoot through it with a high-powered rifle and teflon rounds from a helicopter.

And let’s not forget McConnell’s own choice words upon Obama’s nomination of Elena Kegan to the U.S. Supreme Court when he said, “I believe this nomination should be troubling to those who cherish free speech. I don’t believe this woman should be nominated until I’m convinced of her commitment to free speech rights.”

McConnell apparently believes Barack Obama should check with him for approval before submitting nominees to the bench.

Nelson’s vote against Liu, however,simply defies intelligent, logical explanation. When George W. Bush was naming judges, Nelson voted to immediately end cloture and summarily approve Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a radical tenther who once compared liberalism to “slavery” and Social Security to a “socialist revolution.” It is impossible to imagine what standard Nelson applied that would keep a mainstream voice like Liu off the court – other than the fact that Brown is a Republican and Liu is a Democrat.

And let’s not forget the spectacular puppet show the Republicans put on for us a couple of months ago when they ate up more than 18 hours of floor time by reading the United States Constitution … not presenting any bills or amendments, not introducing new legislation to help America and Americans … just reading the Constitution so Democrats couldn’t have the floor.

So, once again, Republicans put their partisan social agenda ahead of the nation’s interests. Only this time, it’s probably going to come back and bite them on the butt. It seems that the GOP collective has either forgotten, or simply isn’t aware that 40% percent of all Asian Americans in the United States live within the boundaries of the 9th Circuit over which Liu would preside.


Right now, Republican senate aides are scurrying the halls trying to find some dust-covered and obscure procedure to “unfilibuster.”

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) summed up the filibuster, and the motivations behind it, perfectly: “In his original submission of testimony, Goodwin Liu listed 66 speaking events, in addition to 22 scholarly articles, 27 other published works, reports or testimony, and 96 media interviews. With or without any other supplemental materials, Professor Liu has made one of the most extensive disclosures of any recent Circuit Court nominee. This man is exemplary. But if Republicans want to dumb down the Judiciary, this is a good way to do it.”

Republicans: Working to ensure that “Idiocracy” is a documentary.