Reid Admits It: ‘I Don’t Have Votes For Johnsen…Yet’

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It’s been clear for weeks now that Senate leadership hadn’t brought the question of confirming Dawn Johnsen–the President’s nominee to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel–to a vote on the floor because he hasn’t had the votes. Sen. Harry Reid’s office never said as much, but how else to explain that other, less critical nominations were moving and not hers?

Last night Reid made it explicit. “Right now we’re finding out when to do that,” Reid said, according to Roll Call. “We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.”

Right now there are 59 Democrats in the caucus. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) has said he’s “concerned” about her nomination, but his office strongly suggested to me that he’d vote for cloture on her confirmation. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) has said he “opposes” Johnsen, but hasn’t answered the cloture question thusfar. Republican Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN), though, says he supports her. Assuming Nelson’s cloture vote really will be there, but that Specter will continue his…unpredictable streak, that means Democrats need one more Republican to get behind her.

For what it’s worth, the Senators from Maine haven’t responded to my repeated requests for comment on this question.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM’s senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he’s led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com

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