Like so many things in the Democratic Congress, Dawn Johnsen keeps showing up again and again. This is the woman who said that ‘legal abortion remains safer than childhood,’ and that a ban on the procedure was comparable to a ban on slavery.
Back in September, the Indiana University law professor was approved for the post of Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Council by the Senate Judiciary Committee. But the full Senate didn’t vote on her before the winter recess, so she had to be re-appointed.
Now she’s awaiting full Senate confirmation for a second time, which requires 60 votes. Two senators hang in the balance. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) might vote against Johnsen because of her longtime affiliation with NARAL, a pro-choice advocacy organization, and Sen. Richard Lugar, (R-Ind.), is expected to break party line to vote for a hometown favorite.
All seven Republican senators on the Judiciary Committee voted against Johnsen -- for the second time -- citing opposition to her abortion and national defense views. All twelve Democrats voted in favor of her -- for the second time. Minority Judiciary spokesman Stephen Miller said that this second round of "yes" votes warranted some attention, given the political atmosphere that did not exist during her first round of Judiciary Committee approval.
"That President Obama nominated Dawn Johnsen once was bad enough. But, given her stunning views on national security, to do so yet again after all the increasing problems created by pre 9/11 policies from this administration - such as those revealed after the Christmas bombing - is simply inexplicable," said Miller. "What in Johnsen's record leads the President to believe she is the ideal candidate to assume this job and the national security responsibilities that go along with it?"
Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, was one of seven senators who released sharply-worded statements against her after the vote on Thursday.
“Her sweeping condemnations of counterterrorism policies have been factually and legally wrong—and clearly tinted through the lens of her leftist agenda. What’s more, her bizarre statements on social policy demonstrate a legal view warped by a distressing ideology,” said Sen. Sessions, ranking member on the Judiciary Committee.
Not everyone shares his views, however.
“Some people don’t like Dawn Johnsen because she’s a liberal feminist. Okay, fine — if you’re President, you don’t have to name somebody like that to the Office of Legal Counsel,” wrote Glenn Reynolds, law professor at the University of Tennessee. “But the chance that Obama will name someone who’s to the right of Dawn Johnsen is relatively low, so if you succeed in knocking her off, you’ll still get a lefty. Just a different one.”
Orin Kerr, a professor at George Washington University, opined back in 2009 that Johnsen’s appointment was similar to the partisan appointees that Democrats complained about back in the Bush administration.
“I think Johnsen is qualified for the job. On the merits, and given the deference a President is owed in his executive nominees, I think she should be confirmed,” wrote Kerr.