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Arlen Specter says Dawn Johnsen may be competent after all

Maybe miracles do happen. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania told Talking Points Memo that he now feels comfortable casting his vote to confirm Dawn Johnsen, President Obama's controversial nominee to head the influential Office of Legal Counsel at the Justice Department. Specter, who was the ranking Republican when Johnsen's nomination came before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, had questioned her "competency to handle this important job." But he says he had a change of heart after a second in-depth sit-down with her. It's probably no coincidence, as TPM notes, that Specter – now a Democrat – was pressed on the issue this week by his opponent in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Johnsen's nomination has languished for roughly 10 months, in large part because of objections by Senate Republicans, along with Democrats Specter and Ben Nelson, to her abortion rights stance. Democratic defense has been weak. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid didn't push for the vote, and the Obama administration didn't energetically champion the nomination because of a possible defeat. So much for fighting for what's right.

Yet it is right that Johnsen be confirmed: Besides the fact that she is eminently qualified, she’s the president’s pick, and the president deserves deference in choosing his executive branch appointees. During the Bush administration, my Republican friends relished reminding critics that "elections matter," arguing that those who found President Bush's policy positions or personnel picks problematic should take their concerns to the voting booth. Now, my Democratic friends are chafing at what they see as Republican bullying tactics to keep left-leaning nominees from taking their rightful place in the administration. They seem to have conveniently forgotten that they played similar games with nominations.

With Specter on board, Johnsen should have enough support to win confirmation. Fifty-nine Democratic senators, plus the backing of her home state Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, makes for a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

One potential stumbling block: On Tuesday, Massachusetts is scheduled to hold a special election to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Ted Kennedy. Although Democratic candidate Martha Coakley still appears to have the edge, Republican state Sen. Scott Brown and the Massachusetts GOP are enjoying phenomenal success in raising money and closing the gap. Should Brown win, Republicans would have the votes to derail President Obama's health care reform and other key parts of his agenda. Another potential casualty: Dawn Johnsen.

By Eva Rodriguez  | January 13, 2010; 1:07 PM ET
Categories:  Rodriguez  | Tags:  Eva Rodriguez  
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Comments


"competant" ??

How long have spell checkers been around?

When will WaPo start using one?

Posted by: observer100 | January 13, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

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