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Reid: Johnsen Doesn’t Have Votes for DOJ Post

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moves to ease a backlog of executive branch nominations, he suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“Right now we’re finding out when to do that,” Reid said, responding to a question about the status of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Justice post. “We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.”

Johnsen has come under fire from some social conservatives, who have voiced concerns over her positions on abortion and the war on terror.

Johnsen had a contentious confirmation hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 25. The panel approved her nomination on March 20 on a party-line, 11-7, vote.

But Reid indicated Tuesday that at least a few Democrats would also oppose Johnsen, making the task of reaching 60 votes to avert a Republican filibuster even more difficult.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) “is very concerned” about Johnsen’s nomination, press secretary Clay Westrope said, pointing to her tenure as the legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America as a point of concern.

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who recently joined the Democratic Conference after 29 years as a Republican Senator, has stated that he will vote against Johnsen’s nomination when it hits the floor.

Earlier Tuesday, Reid rescinded a warning to hold votes next Monday to try to clear the backlog of Obama’s nominees.

Even without Monday votes, however, the Majority Leader hopes to move on at least three of the president’s picks.

The Senate will vote Wednesday on a procedural motion to break a Republican stall on the nomination of David Hayes for deputy secretary of the Interior Department.

Reid also hopes to bring up the nomination of Craig Fugate for administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Cameron Kerry, Sen. John Kerry’s (D-Mass.) brother and Obama’s pick for Commerce Department counsel.

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