Bench Memos

Post Mortem on Liu Cloture Vote

The cloture petition on the Liu nomination obtained a remarkably low total of only 52 “yes” votes, versus 43 “no” votes and one vote (Senator Hatch) of “present” (the functional equivalent of a vote against). The opposition to cloture was bipartisan, as it included Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Only one Republican—Murkowski of Alaska—voted in favor of cloture. Of the four senators who didn’t vote, only one, Baucus (Democrat from Montana), would seem a likely “yes” vote (and, even then, I have to wonder whether he found it politically convenient not to vote).

In sum, there’s no reason to think that a subsequent cloture petition would get more than 53 votes—well short of the 60 needed. So the Liu nomination appears dead.

Indeed, it’s far from clear that Liu would be confirmed on a straight up-or-down vote. As I noted yesterday, Senator Webb, who voted for cloture, has stated that he would vote against confirming Liu, and there may well be some other Democrats (as well as Murkowski) in the same position. For the same reasons that majority leader Harry Reid didn’t try to bring the Liu nomination to the Senate floor last fall in advance of his own re-election contest, I suspect that there are plenty of Senate Democrats happy to see the end of the Liu nomination.

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