Johnsen is supremely well-qualified. Before a distinguished career as a Constitutional law professor, Johnsen served as acting head of the OLC for a full year during the Clinton administration. Her performance in this role was so exemplary that it was lauded by Republican-appointed Doug Kmiec, head of the OLC under presidents Reagan and Bush senior. Kmiec praised Johnsen’s independent judgment, saying that she “repeatedly separated policy preference from rendered opinion.” Johnsen also has the support of her Republican home state senator. Despite outstanding qualifications and recommendations, Johnsen’s nomination has sat idle in the Senate, requiring a second nomination by President Obama. Hopefully, with the support of Richard Lugar (R-IN) and Arlen Spector (D-PA), Johnsen’s confirmation vote will be able to successfully move past a legislative quagmire.
It is past time that Republicans in the Senate stopped reducing judicial and executive nominations into a partisan, ideological battlefield. The American people deserve a fully functional government that can ensure adherence to the rule of law. A proper OLC director with integrity and good judgment is crucial to that end. The office is routinely called upon to draw fine distinctions in the potential legality of proposed policies and executive orders, to ensure that the President follows established law. After gross misconduct of OLC attorneys in recent years, the OLC would be well served by a director with the experience, integrity, and intellect of Dawn Johnsen.