Sam Stein asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the pace of federal appointments in the past year, and Gibbs said the President is unhappy about the slowness of the confirmations. More importantly, Stein has some Administration officials on background saying that Dawn Johnsen will be re-nominated for head of the Office of Legal Counsel, along with many of the other nominees returned from the Senate at the end of the year.
“We have put a number of people into government in the first year,” Gibbs said, in a response to a question by the Huffington Post. “But at the same time we have seen a pacing in dealing with nominations, both for the executive branch and judicial nominations that, I think, by almost any estimation would be deemed slow.”
As Gibbs briefed reporters, sources said that the White House will push to re-nominate seven of those judicial and political appointees who have been held up in the Senate, including Dawn Johnsen, the controversial nominee to head the Office of Legal Counsel.
Two sources with knowledge of the situation told HuffPost that they expected the re-nominations to be announced soon. But administration officials emphasized that no decisions have been made as of yet. Senate Democratic aides, meanwhile, said they were in the dark about where those nominations stood. The president can not officially re-submit a nominee until the Senate reconvenes on January 20, unless he is pursuing a recess appointment.
The nominees expected to be returned to the Senate are:
Dawn Johnsen, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel
Christopher Schroeder, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy
Mary Smith, Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division
Craig Becker, National Labor Relations Board
Louis Butler, U.S. District Judge for the Western District of Wisconsin
Edward Chen, U.S. Magistrate Judge for the Northern District of California
David Teeples, Army brigadier general
Many have assumed that Johnsen’s nomination, along with many of these others, was effectively dead. The question will be whether Obama not only returns these nominees to the Senate, but uses some political capital to push for their confirmation.
In addition to the confirmation battles for his appointees, Obama appeared to signal through Gibbs a serious push against Republican obstructionism in the Senate:
A re-nomination, of course, would change that perception and already the administration seems to be striking a much more aggressive tone when it comes to condemning the delaying tactics deployed by Senate Republicans — when it comes to nominees and actual legislation.
“I think the president’s overriding frustration has been… it is not simply that you see tactics purely to delay, purely to watch the clock wind around and around, but they don’t even appear to be philosophical,” Gibbs said on Wednesday. “When something gets filibustered and we take 30 hours to debate it and then the ultimate vote is 88 to 10, was the filibuster predicated on anything else than watching the clock wind around?… I think the president, I think the American people are frustrated by the lack of not getting anything done just to hear someone talk.”
If the President would use the bully pulpit to talk seriously about reforming the Senate, that would provide a real boost to those efforts and allow Obama to credibly talk as a reformer. This is more “gently crawling to the edge of the bully pulpit,” but the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, etc.