LA Times Editorial Urges: Confirm DOJ Nominee Johnsen
By Andrew Ramonas | January 28, 2010 5:29 pm

The Los Angeles Times called on the Senate Judiciary Committee today to “promptly” report the nomination of the long stalled Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) nominee to the Senate floor for confirmation.

The panel did have on its Thursday morning business meeting agenda the consideration of the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the OLC, but the committee did not act.

Dawn Johnsen (Indiana University)

Consideration of Johnsen was postponed for one week, which is permissible under panel rules. The committee also held over nominees Mary L. Smith (to lead the Tax Division) and Christopher Schroeder (to head the Office of Legal Policy) until next week.

“Whether rooted in nostalgia for Bush terrorism policies or antipathy to her abortion-rights stance, the obstruction of this nomination is and always has been unjustified,” The L.A. Times wrote in a staff editorial. “The committee should promptly send it to the floor.”

The editorial argued that Johnsen “isn’t simply a [John] Yoo in reverse” for being critical of Bush administration national security policies. Yoo was a former OLC deputy during the Bush administration who helped write the legal memos, which authorized the use of harsh interrogation techniques against terrorism suspects.

Johnsen and other former OLC officials authored the “Principles To Guide the Office of Legal Counsel,” which offered suggestions on how the office could move forward after it was revealed that the office authorized harsh interrogation methods used against terrorism suspects during the Bush administration.

“Republicans who had no problem with the office interpreting the law to accommodate the Bush administration’s tactics in the war on terror now fault Johnsen for supposedly harboring a liberal agenda,” the editorial said.

Conservative senators have raised concerns about Johnsen’s attacks on the George W. Bush administration’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group. There is even an anti-Johnsen Facebook group called, “Oppose the Johnsen nomination!,” which has almost 150 members.

This unease is making her confirmation battle potentially just as tough as it was in 2009, when she was first nominated to lead the elite DOJ office that assesses the constitutionality and legality of government actions. Johnsen was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee last March, but her nomination never came to the Senate floor. Johnsen spent nearly 10 months waiting for a vote in the full Senate last year before her nomination was returned to the White House on Dec. 24. President Obama renominated her earlier this month. Last year, The Washington Post opinions page said the delay on Johnsen was “unconscionable.”

The Judiciary Committee Republicans are asking for another hearing on Johnsen, who received a hearing last year before she was reported out of committee on a party-line vote the first time around. Panel Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said a second hearing is unneeded, but he hasn’t ruled it out. Panel Ranking Member Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said another hearing might help “break that logjam” that kept Johnsen stalled in the Senate last year.

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