Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking member, told Main Justice today that he will probably urge panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to hold hearings on two Justice Department nominees who were re-nominated yesterday.
President Barack Obama resubmitted the nominations of Christopher Schroeder for the Office of Legal Policy and Mary L. Smith for the Tax Division last night. The Judiciary Committee had endorsed both nominees, and they were on the Senate Executive Calendar at the end of last year’s session. The Senate returned them to the White House on Dec. 24, its last day in session in 2009.
The panel already held hearings for the nominees last year. Smith took a grilling about her lack of tax experience, while Schroeder’s June 24 confirmation hearing was disrupted and cut short by a Senate quorum call to consider impeachment charges against Texas U.S. District Judge Samuel Kent.
Asked today whether Judiciary Republicans would seek new hearings for the nominees, Sessions said: “I suspect we would.” But he added: “I haven’t [asked].” A spokesperson for Leahy didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from Main Justice.
Panel Republicans have urged Leahy to schedule another hearing for DOJ Office of Legal Counsel nominee Dawn Johnsen, who Obama also re-nominated yesterday. They wrote in a letter to the committee chairman that there are still “many unanswered questions” about Johnsen. Conservative senators have raised concerns about her vocal opposition to the George W. Bush administration’s legal policies and her work with an abortion-rights group.
While panel Republicans voted unanimously against Smith’s nomination in committee last year, Schroeder was approved on voice vote, which usually signals a lack of controversy. However, Schroeder’s nomination was considered the same day the Judiciary panel voted on Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination, and it now appears likely the OLP nominee got lost in the shuffle.
Schroeder, like Johnsen, had been a critic of Bush’s national security policies, which may be a source of concern for Republicans. If confirmed, he would be in charge of overseeing judicial nominations.
Sessions declined to tell Main Justice whether he would vote in favor of Schroeder in committee.
“I didn’t oppose him last time,” Sessions said. “We will just have to see.”