After languishing in the U.S. Senate for about 10 months, the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to lead the Office of Legal Counsel finally got some action.
We suppose "action" is in the eye of the beholder, because ultimately the Senate refused to take a final vote on the nomination of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law – Bloomington professor to hold the job as head of the Department of Justice's OLC. It's an office she worked for during the Clinton administration and led on an interim basis during that stint.
According to the Senate's rules, nominations must be acted upon by the end of the year of the legislative session. If that doesn't happen, nominations can be carried over into the next year's session by a unanimous agreement or sent back to the president for him to think over. This happened right before the Christmas holidays.
Now President Barack Obama must decide whether to renominate Johnsen and the other nominees the Senate refused to consider. Whether the president sticks with his original candidates or chooses new ones, the nomination process begins from square one.
We sincerely hope that the president sticks with this nominee, and we'd like to see him flex some political muscle in getting her confirmed. She's proven to be a tough and fearlessly outspoken critic of things that are unjust and unfair. Such behavior appears to have earned her some political enemies, but we find tough and outspoken to be admirable qualities.
Johnsen is not without controversy. She incites the ire of abortion opponents because of her previous work as legal director for National Abortion Rights Action League, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Others are against Johnsen because of her criticism of the legal reasoning given to the George W. Bush administration by its OLC that cleared the way for changes in the way detainees suspected of terrorist connections were interrogated. Johnsen also criticized that office during the Bush administration for what some say undermined privacy and due process rights.
Opposition to her leading the office appears to depend in large part on what side of the aisle a politician happens to be on. Yet our U.S. Sens. Richard Lugar, a Republican, and Evan Bayh, a Democrat, have said publicly that they will vote for her confirmation. Perhaps these two gentlemen could give lessons to their fellow senators in how to have differences of opinion and get work done all at the same time.
We understand that the odds of President Obama reading this newspaper are small – after all, he's not an Indiana lawyer – but we're calling on him to renominate Dawn Johnsen to lead the OLC, and we'd like to see him forcefully get behind this nomination and the others that need to be made across the country.
Indiana has one vacancy on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, and two in the Southern District. We were happy to see David Capp get the nomination for U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Indiana, but action needs to be taken on the Southern District job, which is being capably led on an interim basis by Tim Morrison.
It's time to nominate, confirm, and get some work done.*