This morning I outlined the stakes of today’s seminal cloture vote on Goodwin’s Liu’s nomination to the Ninth Circuit. Well, now we have a result: cloture failed 52-43, with Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE) joining all voting Republicans except Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) against cloture. Three Republicans plus Max Baucus (D-MT) were absent, while Orrin Hatch (R-UT) voted present because of his previous strong position against filibusters.
This is the first judicial nominee filibustered since the Gang of 14 brokered an agreement on President Bush’s nominees in 2005, forestalling then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist’s use of the so-called nuclear option (changing Senate rules to eliminate the judicial filibuster). That agreement, to the extent it’s even still valid given the changed composition of the Senate (and with five of the 14 Gang members no longer in the Senate), allowed filibusters only in “extraordinary circumstances,” leaving that term undefined.
And so we may have just have witnessed the re-ignition of the war over judicial nominees. Stay tuned as to whether today’s vote will come to signify the “Water-Liu”—h/t Walter Olson—for one party or another, or for our judiciary.