Senate Refuses to Confirm Obama's Liberal Appeals Court Nominee

By Matt Cover | May 19, 2011 | 7:13 PM EDT

Judicial nominee Goodwin Liu. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

Washington ( – The nomination of controversial Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals failed by a vote of 52-43 on Thursday with Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) joining Senate Republicans in blocking the long-stalled nomination.

Fifty-one Democrats were joined by Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in voting to send the Liu nomination to the Senate floor for an up or down vote. The nomination needed to garner 60 votes to be sent to the floor.

Several Republicans did not vote on the nomination at all, including Sens. David Vitter (R-La.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) – Moran was in Kansas at an event with Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, voted present on the nomination, upholding commitments he has made in the past not to filibuster judicial nominations but also denying Democrats a critical ‘yea’ vote.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said the collapse of Liu’s nomination represented a “huge defeat” for President Obama, and that Senate Republicans had “draw[n] the line” on left-wing  judges.

“This is a nominee who called for a filibuster against judicial nominees who rely on the text of the Constitution,” Perkins said in a statement. “Goodwin Liu may not believe the U.S. Constitution is binding, but certainly thinks foreign law is. At one point he said it was 'difficult to grasp' why international authority could not be imposed on U.S. soil.”

“Goodwin Liu's lack of experience and troubling ideas of justice offer a compelling basis for the Senate to block a nomination that is without a doubt an 'extraordinary circumstance,’” said Perkins.  “If there were ever a time to draw the line on judicial activism, this was it.”