But after Senator Alexander -- and every Republican except Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska -- voted against a motion to break a filibuster and hold a yes-or-no vote on Liu's nomination, it's clear that Alexander's statement of principle leaves some room for interpretation. (Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah voted "present" in the roll call, which he has painted as a principled stand. Nonetheless, a vote to end a filibuster requires 60 "yes" votes to break, so a "no" vote is functionally the same as no vote at all.)
The New York Times puts forth the idea that Alexander's vote wasn't about Liu being "more liberal" than the senator from Tennessee:
But other Republicans were more forthcoming about the real reason for the blockade: Mr. Liu dared to criticize Justice Samuel Alito Jr. as harshly conservative before he was confirmed to the Supreme Court. The filibuster apparently was payback, and the Republican eagerness for revenge has broken faith and a clear understanding on the Senate floor. That will make it harder to fill benches during this administration and many more to come.Click here to read the Times editorial, and click here to learn more about Goodwin Liu.
Senator Alexander wasn't alone, of course. Other Republican senators have pledged to not filibuster judicial nominees, yet they stood together and Thursday and did exactly that. The result is that a federal judgeship, classified as a "judicial emergency" remains vacant, the caseload on the Ninth Circuit remains dangerously high, and a qualified, intelligent nominee was rejected by the Senate on the flimsiest of excuses.