Dawn Johnsen Resource Center
Before his inauguration, President Barack Obama announced that he would nominate respected Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel in his administration. Johnsen had previously served as acting head of OLC under the Clinton Administration, and won praise from across the ideological spectrum. Since the President's announcement, Johnsen has been subject to unprecedented delays and obstruction by GOP Senators, and has been denied an up or down vote in the Senate.
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We believe Johnsen has demonstrated her resolve in national security matters, her seriousness, and her commitment to the rule of law and should be confirmed. Senators who disagree can vote against her nomination, and make clear their reasons. But it is time for the obstruction to end and for the Senate to have an up-or-down vote on Dawn Johnsen's nomination.
"Majority Leader Harry Reid should do what it takes to get the full Senate to vote promptly and to get her confirmed. A year is far too long for such an important position to go unfilled."
"[W]hether rooted in nostalgia for Bush terrorism policies or antipathy to her abortion-rights stance, the obstruction of this nomination is and always has been unjustified. The committee should promptly send it to the floor."
"Ms. Johnsen is highly qualified and should be confirmed. At the very least, senators should have the decency to give her an up-or-down vote."
"Ms. Johnsen is highly qualified for the OLC post: She served for several years as a top assistant in the office during the Clinton administration and has earned the respect of top OLC lawyers who worked for Republican and Democratic presidents. She should be confirmed, but her nomination has been held hostage mainly by Republicans who are using her strong pro-choice views as political fodder."
"Mr. Reid - with President Obama's help - should be similarly aggressive in nailing down Republican votes for other delayed nominations. Dawn Johnsen, an impressive nominee for assistant attorney general, has been on hold since mid-March. She has aroused Republican ire for her opposition to torture and her repudiation of extreme views of presidential power."
"It is precisely Johnsen's determination to end the secrecy of the office that makes her such a strong choice for the job. And in these extraordinary times, the president needs his advisers."
"Republican criticism of Obama's pick to head the Office of Legal Counsel is hypocritical and shouldn't be allowed to derail her confirmation."
"Ms. Johnsen is undoubtedly qualified for the position, and she should be confirmed."
"Whether Republicans or Democrats are in office, the loyal opposition should not frustrate a president's ability to execute the powers of his office by denying an up-or-down vote to executive-branch nominees."
Ms. Johnsen is superbly qualified and has fought for just the sort of change the office needs. The Senate should confirm her without further delay.
Despite the fact that Democrats hold a substantial majority in the chamber, Republican senators are blocking President Obama's Executive Branch nominees at a rate never before seen, according to a review of records by People For the American Way.
"A review of cloture attempts in past sessions of Congress reveals that Republican senators have gone to record lengths to use Senate rules with the goal of slowing down the work of Congress, often when they have no expectation of stopping legislation or even winning concessions."
Under President Bush, Senate Republicans made strong statements condemning obstruction of judicial and executive branch nominees. The Constitutional Accountability Center has collected some of their comments.
Anyone who has listened to GOP Senators labeling Dawn Johnsen—President Obama’s choice to head the Office of Legal Counsel—as a “controversial” nominee could be excused for assuming that her support has been limited to the liberal extreme of the legal community. But the facts tell a different story. In truth, Johnsen has received support from across the ideological spectrum.
Last year, Walter Dellinger, head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Bill Clinton, and Douglas Kmiec, head of the Office of Legal Counsel under President Ronald Reagan, spoke out in favor of Johnsen
"Senator Whitehouse: [The Office of Legal Counsel is] an office that needs to be restored to its former independence, its former integrity, its former intellectual grandeur. And Dawn is the right person to do it. She served before in that office, she comes with high - highest really - accolades for her performance and at the time the informal office motto, half in jest, was, “well, Dawn Johnsen is always right.” And the OLC chief at the time, Walter Dellinger, who went on to be Solicitor General of the United States has publicly said that if confirmed, she will be the best OLC chief in history, better than even he was."