It took five attempts – the committee seemed to always run out of time, or lose a quorum – but today the Senate finally approved the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel. Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor who was critical of the Bush Administration’s terror policies, was already approved by the committee last year, but her nomination never came to a vote in the Senate. In fact, the Senate returned the nomination to the White House at the end of last year, only to have the White House re-submit her nomination for the position.
There does not currently seem to be the kind of support needed for Johnsen to overcome an expected filibuster. Republican Richard Lugar of Johnsen’s home state of Indiana supports her, but Ben Nelson, citing her views on abortion (which have absolutely nothing to do with the Office of Legal Counsel), opposes. And thus she only has a sure 59 votes, which of course in America is not enough for the President to get his choice of staffer.
In a statement, Executive VP of People for the American Way, Marge Baker, noted that senior officials from multiple past Administrations have endorsed Johnsen, and that she deserves an up or down vote:
“More than a year into his presidency, Republicans are still slow-walking President Obama’s nominees for executive agencies. Instead of participating in the business of governing, the GOP is attempting to cripple this administration no matter what the cost. This unprecedented level of obstruction is unwarranted, and, especially in the case of office as crucial as the OLC, utterly unacceptable.
“As Senator Leahy urged, after a year of petty political delays Republican Senators should allow a simple up or down vote on this nominee. The country deserves no less.”
With a recess for Easter and Passover expected at the end of the month, the possibility also exists for a recess appointment.