Sen. Nelson ‘Concerned’ About Johnsen, ‘Usually Opposes’ Obstruction

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Most of the focus on the obstruction of Dawn Johnsen has been on Republicans. They’re the ones who might hold up her nomination, or stage a filibuster (i.e. file for cloture) so there’s some good reason for that.

But what about pro-life Democrats? A Congressional Quarterly report this morning suggests that one pro-life Democratic senator–to wit Ben Nelson (D-PA)–might not support her nomination.

“Senator Nelson is very concerned about the nomination of Dawn Johnsen, based on her previous position as Counsel for NARAL. He believes that the Office of Legal Counsel is a position in which personal views can have an impact and is concerned about her outspoken pro-choice views on abortion,” said spokesman Clay Westrope.

Ah, but there’s an important technical distinction between “not supporting” a nominee and “actively filibustering” her. The question comes down to how Nelson would vote if Republicans subject Johnsen to a cloture vote. I spoke with a Nelson staffer myself just a moment ago and he didn’t officially take the option off the table.“He hasn’t decided yet.”

But the staffer also says “the senator doesn’t support obstruction and usually votes for cloture.”

If it comes to it, and Sen. Nelson votes ‘yes’ on cloture but a ‘no’ on the question of confirmation, it will amount, in essence, to a protest vote. However, it’s worth going through Sen. Nelson’s voting history on controversial nominees to see how true this is. I’ll dig through the roll calls and report back any interesting findings. But the important question is who will vote to support the filibuster, and Nelson is strongly suggesting he won’t, whereas I’ve been asking moderate Republicans this question for weeks, with no answers.

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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