The Senate Judiciary Committee has suspended a highly anticipated confirmation hearing for Goodwin Liu, nominated for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, because of a little-used rule that constrains when Senate committees may meet.
Rule 26-5(a) of the Senate prohibits committees from meeting after 2 p.m. without the consent of the leaders of both major parties. The rule is routinely waived to allow afternoon hearings, but Republicans objected Tuesday and today, as the Senate debates revisions to the just-enacted health-care overhaul. Committees on armed services and homeland security are the only ones meeting, Senate aides said.
The hearing for Liu and for U.S. District Court nominee Kimberly Mueller was planned for 2:30 p.m. today. The Judiciary Committee’s chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), said in a statement that he hopes Republicans will allow the hearing to go forward, but there’s no indication that they will. Leahy did not give a new time for the hearing.
“Senate Republicans continue their ill-advised protest of meaningful health reform legislation by exploiting parliamentary tactics and Senate Rules, to the detriment of the American people and, in today’s instance, at the expense of American justice,” Leahy said. “I urge them to reconsider and allow this hearing to proceed as scheduled.”
A spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had no comment.
Liu’s nomination has the potential to be the most polarizing circuit nomination made by President Barack Obama. A professor and associate dean at the University of California at Berkeley, Liu has been active in liberal groups such as the American Constitution Society and the American Civil Liberties Union. He has not been a judge, though an American Bar Association committee rated him highly qualified for an appellate slot.
In the past week, Liu picked up the support of a pair of prominent law professors, one from the left and one from the right: Akhil Amar of Yale Law School and Kenneth Starr of Pepperdine University. Click here (PDF) for their letter, which cites Liu’s support of private-school vouchers and his testimony that California’s Proposition 8 would be upheld by that state’s Supreme Court.
UPDATE (4:45 p.m.): Still no word from McConnell's staff, but Ed Whelan offers his view on the postponement at National Review. Click here.