Key Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats called on Republicans today to stop holding up President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel.
Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the panel, and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), chairman of the administrative oversight and the courts subcommittee, said in an editorial in The National Law Journal today that OLC nominee Dawn Johnsen is “well qualified” to oversee the elite DOJ office that assesses the constitutionality and legality of government actions.
Republicans have voiced concerns about Johnsen’s vocal opposition to the Bush administration’s national security policies and her past work for an abortion rights group.
Johnsen’s nomination languished for months in the Senate last year before it was returned to the White House on Dec. 24. Obama re-nominated her last month. But consideration of her nomination in committee this year has been delayed three times. The panel is expected to consider her nomination next week.
“Senators who disagree can vote against her nomination, and make clear their reasons,” the senators said in their editorial. “But it is time for the obstruction to end and for the Senate to have an up-or-down vote on Dawn Johnsen’s nomination.”
Leahy and Whitehouse lauded Johnsen’s past experience as a OLC lawyer and help in authoring 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 George W. Bush administration.
The Democratic senators said Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor, has “demonstrated her resolve in national security matters, her seriousness, and her commitment to the rule of law.”
“Through the confirmation process, Johnsen has responded to questions on a wide range of topics, from executive power to protecting against obscenity and child pornography and enforcing and defending the Constitution,” the senators said. “She has left no doubt that she will thoughtfully analyze — not simply rubber-stamp — the legality of administration policies.”