A Bloomington law professor tapped for a leading Department of Justice job wasn't among those included in recess appointments during the weekend by President Barack Obama, but the administration hopes that she'll soon be considered for a full Senate vote.
On Saturday, the White House named 15 individuals by recess appointment, which allows the president to circumvent the full Senate confirmation process typically required and fill a position temporarily until the end of the Congressional session or until a vote happens.
"The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees" to administration posts, Obama said in a written statement that also named the 15 individuals. "But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis. I simply cannot allow partisan politics to stand in the way of the basic functioning of government."
Not on that list was Dawn Johnsen, the Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington professor who's become a controversial nominee chosen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel. The president first nominated her in February 2009, but after getting a partisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee her nomination languished and eventually died without a vote by the full Senate. Her nomination was resubmitted in January, and a second partisan vote in early March sent her name to the full Senate for consideration. The Senate didn't schedule her for a vote before going on its two-week recess at the end of last week.
While not included on the recess appointment list, a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said future recess appointments could be possible if the Senate doesn't move more quickly once it returns April 12.
"Of the 77 people on the calendar, we are only recess appointing 15, and there are a number of qualified individuals the president has nominated that do not fall in this group," the official wrote in an e-mail to Indiana Lawyer. "If the Republicans do not end their campaign of obstruction, the president reserves the option of exerting his authority to recess appoint qualified individuals in the future, but our hope is that we can move beyond the partisan politics that have held up the process for the last 15 months for the good of the American people."
Johnsen served as acting assistant attorney general in the OLC during the Clinton administration. But she has drawn Republican opposition because of her criticisms of the OLC during George W. Bush's administration and generally because of her positions on terrorism, executive power, and abortion issues. She's received opposition from pro-life organizations for her work with NARAL Pro-Choice America from 1988 to 1993.