WASHINGTON — Republicans intensified opposition Tuesday to the nominee for a San Francisco-based appeals court, setting up a test of whether President Barack Obama can win confirmation for an unabashed liberal.
An early test for law professor Goodwin Liu's nomination will occur next week. All seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee urged the Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, to postpone an April 16 hearing for Liu.
The Republicans said Liu omitted 117 items from a Judiciary Committee questionnaire seeking information about his background. Those items have now been submitted, and Liu offered the committee "a sincere and personal apology" for the omissions.
Leahy was not immediately available for comment. Rather than back down from Republican criticism, however, he has harshly accused Republicans for delaying the administration's nominees for open seats on U.S. appellate and district courts.
The Liu nomination is important to Obama's ability to make the federal judiciary more liberal, following eight years of conservative judges chosen by former President George W. Bush.
If confirmed, the 39-year-old Liu may become even more important to Obama and his liberal allies. The assistant dean and law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, has been discussed as the first person of Asian descent who could be chosen for the Supreme Court.
With the nomination, Obama seemed to be following the lead of recent Republican presidents who nominated judicial candidates in their 30s and 40s with the expectation they would have enduring influence in setting policy on the federal bench.
Republicans wrote Leahy that a hearing 51 days after the nomination "is unacceptable given that we have no confidence in the completeness and accuracy of his record before the committee."
The missing records, according to the Republicans, include Liu's remarks on: affirmative action; school funding; the Supreme Court's "Brown" ruling outlawing school segregation and what the 2008 election meant for the Supreme Court.
The Republicans questioned whether Liu was intentionally hiding information on his background.
Republicans clearly are heading toward a filibuster for Liu if the nomination clears the Judiciary Committee. Democrats need 60 votes to stop stalling tactics and they only have 59. However, it's too early to predict whether all senators would line up according to party affiliation.
Liu, if confirmed, would serve on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals serving California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Hawaii and Montana.