Sen. Arlen Specter’s opponent in the upcoming Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary called on the former Republican to get behind President Barack Obama’s pick to lead the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel.
“Senator Specter, President Obama is giving you a second chance to support his nominee to lead the Office of Legal Counsel,” Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) said in a memo to Specter.
Specter has said he opposes Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen for the post. But has yet to say whether he would support a procedural motion to end debate on her nomination, which would allow Johnsen to come before the Senate for an up-or-down vote. Specter met with her at least two times last year to discuss her nomination.
Specter, who is up for re-election this year, switched parties in April after concluding he could not win a primary election among the state’s increasingly conservative GOP electorate. His political challenge now is to appeal to Democrats while still holding onto some Republican voters if he gets to the general election.
Johnsen was critical of the Bush administration’s legal policies and also once worked for an abortion-rights group. She has strong support from liberal groups but is opposed by conservative senators, who have blocked her nomination for nearly a year.
Johnsen was nominated on Feb. 11, 2009. On March 19, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination on a party line vote. Specter, who was a Republican at the time, abstained from the panel vote.
As it recessed for its winter break on Dec. 24, the Senate returned her nomination to the White House. Obama intends to re-nominate her for the post. A spokesperson for Specter did not have an immediate comment.