WASHINGTON - A coalition of Asian Pacific American groups called the U.S. Senate's failure to pass a cloture vote on judicial nominee Professor Goodwin Liu a travesty of the democratic process. Professor 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 1 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.
"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 under-represented 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, Sec. Mineta, a cabinet secretary in both the G.W. Bush and Clinton administrations, eloquently opined on the importance of his nomination to the Asian Pacific American community, stating that "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." Sec. Mineta was the first Asian Pacific American member of the president's Cabinet.
Asian Pacific American leaders also were troubled by the 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 Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who had the courage to stand by her ‘no filibuster' pledge."
Professor 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 greatly appreciate the work that was done by California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, who advocated vigorously in support of Professor Liu's confirmation, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy for their efforts in securing a vote on the nomination. The organizations also thank President Barack Obama for the nomination.