Remember Dawn Johnsen?
It seems like eons have passed since newly-inaugurated President Obama nominated the Indiana University law professor to serve as head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, but in reality it’s been about 10 months. After months of sitting in limbo, Johnsen has not received a confirmation vote in the Senate. And now, if Obama still wants her to serve in has administration, he will have to renominate her and start the confirmation process largely from scratch.
Senate rules require that nominees who have not received a vote by the end of the legislative session must either be carried over to the following session by unanimous consent, or be resubmitted by the administration. At the end of last week–presumably unable to achieve universal agreement–the Senate returned a handful of nominees to the White House, including Johnsen.
That prompted a number of posts by progressive bloggers–who admire Johnsen and blame the blame the administration for failing to push for her confirmation–declaring her nomination officially dead.That’s not necessarily true. But Johnsen will certainly face at least a couple more hurdles. First, it’s up to Obama to decide whether to send her nomination back to the Senate. White House spokesman Bill Burton could offer no guidance today as to what the President plans to do. If he taps her again, though, she’ll have to clear the Judiciary Committee again, and then get 60 votes on the Senate floor to overcome an expected Republican filibuster.
There are 60 members in the Democratic caucus. Of them, the one major holdout has been Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE). Months ago, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) was also threatening to join a filibuster, but he has since moved considerably to the left as he fends off a primary challenge from Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA).
Assuming Specter’s arm can be twisted, Democrats have 59 votes. They also have a pledge from Johnsen’s home state Senator, Dick Lugar (R-IN), to support her confirmation. In other words, Democrats are very close. Presumably they can get her confirmed. The questions now are, will they have a chance? And, if so, will they (finally) pull the trigger?