Tell the Senate, GOP – Stop Stalling on Dawn Johnsen OLC Confirmation

Dawn Johnsen, Barack Obama’s nominee to head his administration’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), is potentially the most qualified candidate ever selected for the position.  Nominated February 11 and approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee March 19, the Indiana University law professor has yet to be considered by the full Senate.  What’s the hold up, you may ask?  It appears that Johnsen is but another among many who has fallen victim to Republican obstructionism and the minority party’s ongoing misuse of the filibuster.


The Republican filibuster threat is only the most immediate cause for delay; forcing Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV) to scramble for the 60 votes necessary for cloture, followed by an up or down vote which would undoubtedly result in Johnsen’s confirmation.  The underlying causes behind GOP opposition to Johnsen stem from two ideological issues; one of which has been blown out of proportion by right-wing activists.  The other, more significant reason for fighting Obama’s OLC nominee is grounded in GOP fear that she, unlike her Bush administration OLC predecessors, may actually follow the law.


Right-wing activist opposition to Johnsen pertains to her past work for NARAL, a pro-choice advocacy organization.  More specifically, their objection pertains to a 1989 brief in which Johnsen’s organization — along with 76 others — argued against states having the right to prohibit abortions at public health institutions.


Johnsen’s critics have zeroed in on two sentences within a footnote, which they employ claiming the OLC nominee equated motherhood with “involuntary servitude.”  It’s an assertion which Politifact declared, March 24, to be “false.”


Of course, right-wing pundits further afield have taken Johnsen’s words and maliciously converted them, as did September 19, placing the Obama nominee as number 41 among 650 unpalatable administration officials as, “Dawn ‘Compared Pregnancy with Slavery’ Johnsen.”  No matter how it’s stated, however, Johnsen’s pro-choice stance is and has always been remarkably mainstream.


“The real reason” for the GOP stance in opposition to Dawn Johnsen was imparted by Scott Horton, March 26, at The Daily Beast:


…Johnsen is committed to overturning the Bush administration’s policies on torture and warrantless surveillance, which would clip the wings of the imperial presidency. Even more menacingly (from their perspective), she is committed to shining a light on some of the darkest skeletons of the Bush years.


If this is correct, then Horton’s assessment lends credence to that of Glenn Greenwald, whose aptly titled post, “Dawn Johnsen’s belief in the rule of law disqualifies her from Senate consideration,” was published May 13 at Within his post, Greenwald emphasized the fact that the Senate’s scrutiny of Johnsen was tragically absent in its confirmation of some previous, ultimately dubious, past nominees:


The Senate that is refusing to confirm Dawn Johnsen is the same Senate that confirmed Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA Director — with overwhelming Democratic support — even after it was revealed that he oversaw Bush’s illegal NSA spying program.  It’s the same Senate that confirmed Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General — with substantial Democratic support — even once everyone knew that he had played a key role in Bush’s torture program.  It’s the same Senate that — thanks to Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer — confirmed Michael Mukasey as Attorney General even after he refused to say whether waterboarding was torture and endorsed some of the most extremist presidential powers ever asserted in the U.S.


In other words, their covering their collective butts, and their doing so at the expense of a nation in desperate need of objective legal guidance.


Fortunately, there are those willing to tell their senators to quit stalling.  A good example of this was a September 22 letter from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, written behalf of several organizations, directing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to drop the stall tactics on Obama nominations. 


The LCCR letter refers to Johnsen, specifically:


…Professor Johnsen has already served with distinction in the OLC, and is undoubtedly well-qualified for the position. Her nomination was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in March.  The OLC plays a highly important role within the Administration, and the failure to confirm the President’s nominee to lead the office prevents the OLC from providing crucial legal advice on a wide range of issues currently confronting our nation.


I’ll include some additional links below, but if you agree with the sentiment of the above letter, contact your senators and tell them so.  Additionally, consider signing THIS PETITION from NARAL-Pro-Choice America, calling on GOP senators to refrain from filibustering on the basis of any candidate’s pro-choice disposition.


See Also:

A Legal Advisor Worthy of the Job,” New York Times Editorial Board, 26 March 2009.

Greg Sargent, “Key Dem Senator Likely to Vote Against Top Obama Legal Nominee,” ThePlumLine, 24 April 2009.

Scott Horton, “Are Republicans Blackmailing Obama?” TheDailyBeast, 5 April 2009.

Image from, User: umjanedoan, by way of


Ross L.
Ross L8 years ago

Repugs strike again. At every turn, they obstuct! All they care about is stopping Prez Obama and NOTHING else! What can we do??? This is so sickening. What will the next 3 years be like. Dems need to use their majority and forget bipartisan bs.

James D.
James D8 years ago

Start a movement to insist on a Recall Option. If we don't like what our "representatives" are doing we should be allowed to recall them and replace them. ... Better yet, why not have a system wherein We do the voting on laws, etc., and our representatives simply propse the laws and only have their single citizens vote. Again, if we don't like what they keep sending us, we Recall them.

Rex J.
Rex J8 years ago

Carol H. now that is such a stupid comment I think you and wonderwoman Sarah Palin should form a ticket for 2012. "I can see Florida from my house". Of course you can you live there. After all she can see Russia from her's. Foreign policy experts you two are. You probable know nothing of the woman Dawn Johnsen, you'll have to go now and look up info on her yet you don't like her. Pathetic...

Anne J.
Mildred J8 years ago

Dawn Johnson sounds too far left for me. I would like to see someone from the middle, who will weigh both sides of an arguement.

Carol H.
Past Member 8 years ago

Anything that BO wants I don't want because I don't trust him so I don't trust her.

Bruce Anderson
8 years ago

Refiblicans after their 8 plus years of shreding the honest and humane fabric of what America stands for, need to simply step aside.

Rex J.
Rex J8 years ago

The republicans are idiots rapped in morons. Nuff' said.

Diane H F8 years ago

Enough! Our country is in crisis, and Republicans are obstructing every single effort -- apparently simply for the principle of it -- to pull the US back from the brink of complete collapse. What intolerable selfishness! You are well-paid to represent the American people. If you want to represent corporations instead, stop doing it at taxpayer expense. Quit your office. We have just about run out of patience with the anti-American actions of the obstructionists.

Mary Tucker-Pettersen

Why do we allow our politicians to do as they please. Remember, they should represent us, not the dark forces. Here in Texas, we cannot help but align ourselves with the flagrant stupidity committed by the people we elect to protect our interests. Let the people in Washington know, we want someone who follows the law at OLC, not someone who goes to the highest bidder.