Leahy to forge ahead with Liu hearing despite GOP objections

Democrats are forging ahead with plans to confirm Goodwin Liu to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit despite GOP protests over the nominee’s failure to fully disclose his speeches and writings.

In a sternly worded letter Wednesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) denied a Republican request to postpone Liu’s hearing to review the undisclosed information.

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“I had hoped that in this new year, we could put political rancor aside and come together to openly and fairly debate President Obama’s qualified judicial nominees,” Leahy wrote in a letter to Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on Judiciary.

“I am disappointed that, instead, we have seen the same delays and obstructionist approach toward these nominees on the Senate floor extend to the Committee’s consideration,” Leahy wrote.

Republicans demanded the delay after learning that Liu, a U.C. Berkeley law professor, had sent the committee a package of 117 speeches, publications and other background materials that he initially omitted from the committee’s consideration.

“At best, this nominee’s extraordinary disregard for the committee’s constitutional role demonstrates incompetence; at worst, it creates the impression that he knowingly attempted to hide his most controversial work from the committee,” Sessions wrote in a letter to Leahy earlier this week.

The 9th Circuit, which covers the West Coast of the U.S. as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Idaho, Nevada and Arizona, is considered one of the most liberal circuit courts in the nation.

In his response to Sessions, Leahy acknowledged he was “disappointed that Professor Liu did not earlier provide the materials in the supplement sent to the committee on April 5.”

But Leahy said none of the omitted materials are controversial enough to “disqualify him from serious consideration.”

Leahy also said the omissions should not jeopardize Liu’s nomination because new material he provided this week consisted mainly of “event announcements or descriptions, agendas from third-party organizations and publicly available news articles.”

Leahy noted that he initially scheduled Liu’s confirmation hearing for March 10 and has already postponed the date twice.

The hearing is now planned for April 16.

Leahy said that Republicans will have had more than seven weeks to review the nominee’s record.

“I see no reason to further delay this nominee’s opportunity to appear before the committee and respond to the questions its members may have,” Leahy wrote.

Republicans accused Liu of creating an impression that he is trying to hide his most controversial work from the Committee by failing to provide information about speeches he gave to liberal legal groups and events he attended. They also said the omissions show an “unwillingness to take seriously his obligation to complete basic forms” and could disqualify him from being confirmed.

Despite Leahy’s decision to go forward with the hearing, Sessions continued to press for a delay, arguing that Liu failed to disclose an unprecedented number of records as part of his required committee questionnaire.

Sessions also pointed out that Liu’s hearing was originally scheduled for March 10th, just 16 days after his nomination while the average time from nomination to hearing for President Bush’s circuit nominees was 179 days.

Liu’s speeches and writings are of particular interest because he has spent most of his career as a professor with very little experience practicing law.

“For a nominee to omit such a huge portion of his record is egregious,” Sessions said. “These omissions, however, are particularly
severe because many of them shed greater light on Liu’s most controversial and troubling views—such as his support for racial
quotas and his belief that government welfare is a constitutional right.”

This story was updated at 1:40 p.m.

Susan Crabtree contributed to this story.