A total of 43 senators — including 42 Republicans — successfully filibustered Goodwin Liu’s judicial nomination this afternoon. With that in mind, it’s worth noting what many of these same senators used to say about this practice before there was a Democratic president. For some, their own actions today weren’t just wrong; they were literally unconstitutional.
Lamar Alexander (R-TN) : “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.”
Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA): “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.”
Tom Coburn (R-OK): “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.”
John Cornyn (R-TX): “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.
Mike Crapo (R-ID): “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.”
Chuck Grassley (R-IA): “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.”
Mitch McConnell (R-KY): “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 supermajority for confirmation.”
There are other examples. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said “denials of simple votes on judicial nominees” are “unconstitutional.” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, “I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional.” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) argued, “Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it.”
How many of these senators filibustered Liu’s nomination today? All of them.
What’s more, several other senators have never supported a judicial filibuster in their careers: Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and John Thune (R-S.D.). How many of them changed their minds today and refused to allow a qualified nominee to have an up-or-down vote? All of them, too.
And in the category of the truly ridiculous we have Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, the only Democrat who filibustered Liu today. Nelson refused on more than one occasion to filibuster Bush’s most right-wing nominees, but has now taken to filibustering Obama’s mainstream nominees.
Update Glenn Sugameli, a staff attorney at Judging the Environment, and my go-to guy on matters related to judicial nominees, said in a statement, “The depths of partisan, unprincipled hypocrisy were plumbed by the many Republican Senators who voted to filibuster Goodwin Liu’s nomination after denouncing all such filibusters and insisting the Constitution requires up-or-down votes for all judicial nominees.”
Second Update: I originally had Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas) voting for the filibuster today. She did not vote, so I’ve corrected the text.