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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Whitehouse, Dellinger & the Johnsen Nomination

Well, recess is over. But, just because Congress was gone for two weeks doesn’t mean anyone in town was resting (at least we weren’t here at Justice Watch). Last week, we were lucky enough to be joined by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and former Solicitor General Walter Dellinger for a conference call on the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice.

Both the senator and Mr. Dellinger provided some wonderful insights, though you don’t have to take our word for it. Check out the reports on the call from Talking Points Memo, BuzzFlash and Firedoglake.

Meanwhile, yesterday, Senate Republicans picked up where they left off prior to the recess—making noises and unfounded statements about the record of this exceptionally qualified nominee. There were even whispers of the f word—something of a change of position for many Republicans as Mr. Dellinger pointed out in the Wall Street Journal. Blocking the president’s nominee would be an interesting 180 turn for many senators, particularly those like John Cornyn who so vehemently spoke about the constitutional role of the Senate in rubberstamping a president’s nominees regardless of qualifications (see Cornyn’s full-throated support of Alberto Gonzales to head the Justice Department, among other things) back when his party held the White House.

Of course, Dawn Johnsen is no Alberto Gonzales. She is a renowned legal scholar. She has bipartisan support. She has made it clear that she understands the most important qualification for the head of the OLC is an ability to say no to the president. Approving her nomination would not be rubberstamping, it would be ensuring that an exceptionally important position in the Department of Justice is filled by the individual most qualified for the task. Advice and consent at its finest.

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