Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) said Tueday he will support Dawn Johnsen to lead the Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel.
The former Republican, who is up for re-election this year, previously said he opposed Johnsen for the post. Specter announced his position in a statement released by his office hours after his opponent in the Democratic primary, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), called on the senator to get behind Johnsen, an Indiana University law professor.
“After voting ‘pass’ (which means no position) in the Judiciary Committee, I had a second extensive meeting with Ms. Johnsen and have been prepared to support her nomination when it reaches the Senate floor,” Specter said.
The Pennsylvania senator will vote for cloture on the nomination and vote in favor of her confirmation on the Senate floor, according to a Specter spokesperson. The Democrats’ inability to muster 60 votes to end debate on her nomination has been the procedural hurdle holding up the nomination. It is still unclear if Specter’s support will be enough to move Johnsen through the Senate.
Johnsen was first nominated on Feb. 11, 2009. On March 19, 2009, the Senate Judiciary Committee approved her nomination on a party line 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.
The senator’s office said in a statement to Main Justice last November that Specter still had “several concerns” about Johnsen, after meeting with her twice in April and May to “get clarification on her positions.” His office issued the November statement after we asked the senator to respond to accusations from Sestak that Specter was blocking the nomination.
Conservative senators have criticized Johnsen for her vocal opposition to the Bush administration’s legal policies and her work on an abortion-rights group, while several liberal groups have praised her.
Specter, who switched parties in April, is facing a tough primary challenge in a state with an 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
This post has been updated from an earlier version.
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Specter To Support Johnsen Nomination | Main Justice…