Obama Tries Again on Controversial DOJ Pick

Posted January 7, 2010 at 5:03pm

President Barack Obama on Thursday gave fresh life to the long-stalled nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel, renominating her to the Justice Department post that was left vacant last year.

Johnsen, an Indiana University law school professor, was Obama’s most controversial nominee before the Senate last year, and GOP opposition is sure to carry over after the Senate convenes Jan. 19. Republicans staunchly oppose her selection because of her positions on abortion rights and her past criticism of Bush administration interrogation tactics. Her nomination was returned to the White House on Christmas Eve, just before the Senate adjourned for the year.

While Johnsen’s nomination has mostly drawn criticism from GOP ranks, Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.) and Arlen Specter (Pa.) have also voiced concern. Johnsen does enjoy the support of Indiana Sens. Dick Lugar (R) and Evan Bayh (D).

Obama also renominated a handful of other nominees that stalled last year in the Senate. Those include Christopher Schroeder, nominated to lead the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Policy; Mary Smith, nominated to an assistant attorney general post, and Louis Butler and Edward Chen, each nominated for district court judgeships. Obama also renominated Craig Becker to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. Each nomination will require a 51-vote approval by the Senate. In the case of Johnsen’s nomination, which will likely require procedural maneuvering to overcome GOP objections, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will have to corral 60 votes to win approval.