OLC: Make That A Stick, Harry…

Well, this is complete and utter bullshit:

[Reid] suggested on Tuesday that he does not have the votes to bring up President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

“Right now we’re finding out when to do that,” Reid said, responding to a question about the status of Indiana University law professor Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to the Justice post. “We need a couple Republican votes until we can get to 60.”

I’ve been told by several sources that Nelson intended to vote no on the floor vote, but yes for cloture. So unless that’s changed — and I’d like to know why, and what Reid has actually tried to do about it — that wouldn’t have been an issue. I’ve also heard that Specter was considering doing the same.

Again, what has Democratic leadership been doing to shore that up?

You think Rove and company just sat back and hoped for the best on votes?  Hell no.  So where’s the leadership, Harry?

We’ve been pushing on Johnsen for weeks. She is a superb nominee. Her legal acumen is amazing, and her integrity in terms of ethical and rule of law standards at OLC is just what is needed for that office.

What’s the sticking point? There has been no concomitant push from Democratic leadership for her. None.

Worse, the White House has been nonexistent in plugging for a position that should have been at the top of their "to do" list given the problems that DOJ was already having trying to restore departments to their non-politicized norms.  I have been trying to twist arms behind the scenes, but no more.  I have had it.

Whitehouse and Leahy have been the only two Senators on Judiciary or elsewhere doing any push whatsoever. Her home state Senator Evan Bayh?  Nonexistent.

Just last week, AG Holder said that confirming Dawn was his top priority in an appropriations subcommittee hearing. He was the first person from the WH team to say anything about her out loud since her nomination in terms of public hearings or reporting.

This is a failure of leadership.  Period.

From Harry Reid, from Dick Durbin, from Chuck Schumer…none of whom have done their jobs on arm twisting and have just allowed this to be a "well, if the White House wants her, they can do the work" game of chicken. And the White House? Nary a peep beyond that recent push from Holder. You think President Obama couldn’t pick up a phone and twist a few arms along with his buddy Joe Biden? Yet that has not happened from everything I have heard.

Do I sound pissed? Why yes, I do. The rule of law actually means something beyond a convenient campaign slogan to me. And the nation’s system of justice deserves better than benign neglect.

What’s worse?  I smell a capitulation deal on the other lingering nominations.  I’ve got some calls out to ascertain whether this was a "you vote for these nominees and we’ll leave Dawn Johnsen off the table until after the recess" quid pro quo between Reid and McConnell. Because I smell kabuki.

PFAW, NARAL, AFJ and NWLC have all pushed for Johnsen. Good for them. So have a handful of bloggers. Good for them, too.

But where is everyone else? This is the legal run-up to the SCOTUS nomination. The right-wing is using this as their test messaging case on abortion and national security boogah boogah scare tactics. If we ignore it or, worse, don’t give a crap, do any of us think this simply goes away? Or does it get worse?

We have learned nothing the last eight years if we think that passive neglect in the face of crappy tactics is a winning strategy. And yet? Here we are.

Well I, for one, have had it. Senate Democratic Leadership and the Obama White House need to do their jobs and fight for a nominee the nation needs. Now.  You know what to do.

Harry Reid: (202) 224-3542 (phone);   202-224-7327 (FAX)

Dick Durbin: (202) 224-2152 (phone);   (202) 228-0400 (FAX)

Chuck Schumer: (202) 224-6542 (phone);   (202) 228-3027 (FAX)

Pat Leahy: (202) 224-4242 (phone);   (202) 224-3479 (FAX)

Evan Bayh: (202) 224-5623 (phone);   (202) 228-1377 (FAX)

Senate numbers.

(H/T to Glenn for the heads up.)

53 Responses to "OLC: Make That A Stick, Harry…"
Christy Hardin Smith | Wednesday May 13, 2009 05:19 am 1

Good gravy, I need more coffee…

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:04 am 2

Morning Christy, You continuing to get better?

Christy Hardin Smith | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:05 am 3
In response to foothillsmike @ 2

I am — although not having to lose my temper at Senate leadership incompetence would be helpful. *g*

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:08 am 4

Don’t get mad get even. Have to figure out how best to get even.

oldgold | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:19 am 5

Beyond Johnsen, Reid is allowing a very dangerous idea take root in the Senate. That is the notion that to get anything done requires 60 votes.

Now, on matters of great import and/or controversy, I understand and to some degree concur with the role the cloture rule plays, but what has occurred during this session of Congress is an abuse of that role and at odds with the democratic ideals that inform the Constitution.

If the cloture rule continues to be flagrantly abused, it needs to be changed.

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:22 am 6

I think that the push needs to be made against some of the more moderate Rs.

Christy Hardin Smith | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:24 am 7
In response to foothillsmike @ 6

Absolutely — folks from Maine should be calling Snowe and Collins this morning. PA residents should be calling Specter and Casey. Florida residents need to call their Nelsen. Same with folks from NE with theirs.

Everyone needs a call — but I’d also love it if folks have time ot phone the leadership folks listed above. Leahy has actually been doing work on this, albeit mostly behind the scenes — so a thank you to him but also a nudge on behalf of Johnsen would be great. Giving him ammo to say “we’ve gotten a lot of calls on this” to the rest of the leadership folks would be lovely.

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:25 am 8

I would love to have Holder tell congress, when they make a request of him, that he can’t comply with their wishes until he gets staffed up.

Christy Hardin Smith | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:25 am 9
In response to oldgold @ 5

Yes, especially when that should not be a problem here. If they’d bothered doing the work ahead of time, that is.

Safron | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:26 am 10

Wow… which Democratic Senator is being allowed to vote against cloture for the President’s nominee? This is just ridiculous.

Christy Hardin Smith | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:28 am 11
In response to Safron @ 10

It is absolutely ridiculous. You could probably tell I was a wee bit pissed. *g*

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:42 am 12

Without Franken there are only 56 dem senators, 2 indep. and Arlen Spector = 59

Christy Hardin Smith | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:44 am 13
In response to foothillsmike @ 12

But Lugar has already said he’d support her, so that should be 60 already without Franken. If all the Dem votes held on cloture.

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:56 am 14

I had forgotten that – oops.
(still getting dumped into hinterland when I try to refresh)

oldgold | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:56 am 15

The Senators need to be reminded that when Madison crafted the Senate he called it a “cooling saucer,” not a damn eternal chamber pot.
I just called Senator Harkin’s office and reminded them of that. Oh, and by the way, his office informed me that he has not taken a position on Dawn Johnsen. I asked what in the hell they were waiting for, Hell to go Baptist or Sioux County to go Democratic?

foothillsmike | Wednesday May 13, 2009 07:00 am 16
In response to oldgold @ 15

It has been my experience that the secretaries don’t know what is going on. I called my senators office and got that response. When I spoke directly to the senator I found out that he was a friend of Dawn Johnson and was supporting her.

demi | Wednesday May 13, 2009 07:05 am 17

Christy, that does it get worse is disturbing. The whole story is disturbing. I remember fighting with my dad, when I was a kid, about the importance of math. I just didn’t see how it could affect my life. And, I didn’t like it. Ah, I see daddy was right, again.
But, I still hate the numbers game. She-it.

hary3hve | Wednesday May 13, 2009 10:03 am 18

It’s becoming increasingly apparent that the 60 vote threshold Reid claims to need in order to to get anything through the obstructionist senate is nothing more than a convenient way for the majority party to backtrack on campaign promises, dilute real reform legislation and capitulate to minority party will. This is by design – they have no real desire to establish a true 60 vote coalition. What would their excuse be then if they could no longer claim that the devil made me do it. Dems and Repubs are one in the same, co-conspirators embracing a dysfunctional and corrupt political apparatus that serves to enrich only themselves and the elite class of America at the expense of ordinary citizens.

brendanscalling | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:38 pm 19

harry reid is a pro-life mormon.
dawn johnsen worked for NARAL.
harry reid has bent over backwards to help republicans: (FISA, Alito and Roberts, Coburn’s hold on civil rights era crimes)

Harry reid is not our friend at all.

selise | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:43 pm 20
In response to hary3hve @ 18

if the dems in congress wanted to be able to get obama’s nominations confirmed, then they could have re-written the senate rules for filibustering/cloture at the beginning of the 111th congress.

that they did not makes me think that you are most likely correct.

Prairie Sunshine | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:45 pm 21

Hear, hear, Christy. And one hopes the Democratic leadership do.

They let an Obama Interior appt get stopped by the Rethugs, now they handwring on this appointment.

And allow perception–we gotta have 60–become reality. oldgold@5 is exactly right. They aren’t getting beat, they’re throwing in the towel without putting up a fight.

Epic Reid Fail. No heavyweight champ he.

Prairie Sunshine | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:47 pm 22
In response to Prairie Sunshine @ 21

What’s the protocol for changing majority leader in midstream? Time to put this on the table.

Albatross | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:47 pm 23

Geeze, are we stuck with Reid until at least January, 2011?

ubetchaiam | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:51 pm 24

“Do I sound pissed?” The question is how do we get many others equally pissed? (Or even more so).
Obama could have appointed her during the Easter recess BUT he continues in his illusion that ‘bi-partisanship’ is necessary for good governance.

dcblogger | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:54 pm 25

Barbara Boxer for majority leader!

plutonicus | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:56 pm 26

Many on both sides of the aisle fear torture investigations for personal or party reasons. Johnsen in at OLC makes investigation more likely. Thus, delay. Bipartisan CYA. We really must quit thinking that the democrats are on our side.

kyeo | Wednesday May 13, 2009 01:57 pm 27
In response to Prairie Sunshine @ 22

30 Democratic votes in the Senate. Good luck.

AZ Matt | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:02 pm 28

Reid is looking bad and weak. Oh, that is cuz he is!

selise | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:04 pm 29
In response to ubetchaiam @ 24

good point.

rapier | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:12 pm 30

More great news. I’m seeing that Holder is asking that the court up Seigleman’s sentence to 20 years. I am not making this up.

Johnson could pass eventually but I think she will withdraw. Someone try to get hold of her and see where she is and if she has had any contact with the WH. One little teeny tiny bit of support. I guess no.
She was a mistake. The serious ones are in charge now.

I don’t think many grasp how screwed we are. Obama is going to institutionalize every damn thing Bush introduced.

TheLurkingMod | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:26 pm 31

Siun is upstairs at the Mothership!
Gaza: Amira Hass Arrested Leaving Gaza

Larue | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:27 pm 32
In response to rapier @ 30

Sad to say, the comments above, and yours, seem to prove the case you make.

It’s a sad time for our country . . . Dawn Johnson was the hope that we MIGHT get some justice for the past, and clean up the present . . . . it’s not looking good for the change I voted for . . .

Prairie Sunshine | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:27 pm 33

totally OT, I know, but Donny Deutsch and Chris Matthews are being total a**holes and idiots. They’re circle-jerking each other on torture. Joan Walsh, a woman of courage to venture into that cesspool of testosterone.

newtonusr | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:30 pm 34
In response to Prairie Sunshine @ 33

Yes! And Deutch goes to the “You want me on that wall; you need me on that wall…” bullshit.
When are we going to stop relying on fiction for our national security policies?

i’m not expecting a cogent answer to that one.

oldtree | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:31 pm 35

Mr. Reid may be being blackmailed. It is the only thing that explains why he is acting more like Mitch McConnell would act. It is not a republican majority leader we need in the senate. I would hope that his sponsoring Bybee, his clearly republican tendencies would make him change party or quit the senate in embarrassment at least. But we see senators commit some serious crimes that they never pay for.
It isn’t right. Mr. Reid, did someone from Bushie’s crew inform you that you were caught on an intercept and are they using that information to blackmail you into doing the bidding of the GOP instead of the Democratic Party, and more importantly, the needs of the people of this country?

demi | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:35 pm 36
In response to Prairie Sunshine @ 33

I saw that too. How does she do it? I love how she sits there slack jawed, and an occasional eyeroll. PS, someone tell Donnie that Jack Nickelson played the Bad Guy in A Few Good Men. He doesn’t get it, does he?

Muzzy | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:48 pm 37

carolbeth | Wednesday May 13, 2009 02:59 pm 38

Does Congress recess for Memorial Day? Could this have been a reality check by the administration to see which senators are obstructing? Is there a cure for optimism?

BearCountry | Wednesday May 13, 2009 03:04 pm 39

I knew that we would be heading down the same road whether obama or st. john were elected POTUS. I really didn’t expect obama to mimic bush so quickly and completely. So far obama has diddled around the edges to try to make it look as if he is doing something to save the country, but when you look at the big picture, he, a long with reid, is putting the country into a straitjacket by leaving bushbots in place and always saying that it takes 60 votes to pass anything. If this continues, I may sit out the next election because it doesn’t matter now whether dim or rethug is in power.

Bluetoe2 | Wednesday May 13, 2009 03:13 pm 40

Why do people expect that Reid will one day have an epiphany and begin acting like a leader? He is acting like a leader. A leader to protect the interest of the oligarchy. Do you really expect him to act like a leader in the interest of the “public.”

stevelaudig | Wednesday May 13, 2009 03:17 pm 41

Reid is at heart a capitualationist who leads from the back. One is left wondering what part his religion plays in this capitulationist behavior.

Bluetoe2 | Wednesday May 13, 2009 03:51 pm 42
In response to oldtree @ 35

Remember the scene in “Godfather II” when the Nevada politician wakes up in bed with a dead prostitute in a mob brothel? Michael Corelone’s people assure him they will take care of everything but he is now expected to “play along.”

Assumpsit | Wednesday May 13, 2009 04:08 pm 43

Why couldn’t the Democrats hold up much of the Republican appointments and legislation when the Rethugs did not have 60 senators? Can someone please explain?


earlofhuntingdon | Wednesday May 13, 2009 04:26 pm 44

The neglect is not “benign”. Given Team Obama’s quick back-step march, it doesn’ t seem interested in having a high-level appointee advocating for a harder stance on upholding the rule of law.

The administration’s “hard liners” and Cheney holdovers (of which there are far too many still) are probably arguing for a “go slow until Franken’s in the Senate”. I imagine that includes Reid, who’s never shown much interest in actually doing the job he worked so hard to get. Not because with Franken’s vote they can get what they want, but as an excuse to avoid appointing a strong, forthright personality like Johnsen. When Franken’s seated, they’ll gin up another excuse.

If nothing else, this episode alone is the poster child for why we need to rid the party of as many Blue Dogs as possible, and to fight for Democratic leadership worthy of the name.

jenmarie | Wednesday May 13, 2009 04:27 pm 45

Glenn asks a question I’d really like to hear the answer to:

UPDATE: I have one question for the great fighter-leader, Harry Reid: during Reid’s tenure as Majority Leader, Michael Mukasey was confirmed as Bush’s Attorney General with a grand total of 53 Senate votes. How come Dawn Johnsen “needs 60 votes” or else she’ll be rejected?

Mauimom | Wednesday May 13, 2009 06:21 pm 46

Remind me also why I keep getting e-mails from the DCCC, DSCC and Obama about how I should ”support the Administration’s efforts on health care reform” — like, they think I’m gonna help THEM when they’ve been such total wimps on a long list of issues: releasing torture photos, failing to support limits on credit card interest, in their own way taking torture prosecution ”off the table,” failing to manage & lobby for a number of nominees, failing to shitcan ”don’t ask, don’t tell.”

Yeah, I’m just going to take a vacation from being pissed at them & fire off a bunch of e-mails as requested. The effectiveness of my correspondence on all of the above issues has been SO effective, I’m sure this time it will do the trick.

tejanarusa | Wednesday May 13, 2009 07:29 pm 47
In response to jenmarie @ 45

Oh, but that’s easy, not even snark. Dems will vote for Repub appointees absent a very strong reason to vote against.
Rethugs won’t. It’s a Dem appointee? Nope, nope, nope. Makes it easy for them, no thinking, no principles required. Just no.

Robt | Wednesday May 13, 2009 10:33 pm 48

I agree with the stick on the stall approach.

Johnson is a very professional choice and is direly needed in the Justice Dept.

ImperialFlow | Thursday May 14, 2009 01:13 am 49
In response to brendanscalling @ 19

It’s incredibly illustrative of Congressional Democrats policy focus that Reid is the Senate Majority Leader. If you have a liberal agenda to advance, you don’t make your Senate leadership a member who has one of the most tenuous Democratic seats in the country. It’s completely antithetical to getting anything done. At every possible turn you put him in a position to have to do harm by himself in order to do good by the proposed agenda. Ergo, the Democratic Congress does not have a liberal agenda; you have to look at Reid and recognize that his politics are exactly the politics that the party wants advanced.

Leen | Thursday May 14, 2009 06:16 am 50
In response to earlofhuntingdon @ 44

so the “blue dogs” are yellow bellied?

Pathetic that both sides do not seem interested in a strong Justice system.

HotFlash | Thursday May 14, 2009 11:14 am 51

Coming very late to this, but it is one of those situations that doesn’t make sense. The reasons we are being told do not account for the situation that we can see. There is something else going on. And it’s something very big and very high. A go-slow from BO? Together with the Admin flip-flop on the torture photos, I wonder if ‘they’ are afraid of what Dawn Johnsen would find or do?

Another question I have is, who is running ‘their’ game these days? Clearly not Steele, Rush doesn’t have the grasp of the big picture or the finesse, maybe PapaDick? Newtie? Or is it all on autopilot?

mui1 | Thursday May 14, 2009 02:13 pm 52

It seems like aeons I have been reading of dem senate failures like this and saying over again as if I am surprised, “harry reid is a jerk”. And Reid really seems like a jerk x a Lieberman and a half. I think scrutiny of reid should be amped up. Something makes me think he’s swimming in the same cesspoll as Lieberman and it’s not just because they’re buddies.

SKinPA | Thursday May 14, 2009 05:51 pm 53

Body text of a letter I just faxed to Senator Specter’s office (i’m a PA resident/voter):

I strongly urge you to reconsider your position, especially as a new Democrat, and vote to confirm Dawn Johnsen’s nomination to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. She is eminently qualified and spoke out against the abuses of power that put such a dark stain on our Constitution and our nation’s reputation in the previous eight years. She will stand in stark contrast to the conduct of John Yoo and Stephen Bradbury, whose leadership in, and influence over, the OLC in the previous eight years has been so disastrous.

Further, I urge you to speak to Senator Reid and ask him to hold a straight up or down vote on this nomination. We had an election last November, and President Obama won it. He is entitled to have his nominees voted on by the Senate. The use of a threat of a filibuster should not be enough to sink a nomination when more than the half the Senate would vote to confirm. I ask you to speak with Senator Reid and encourage him to call the bluff of those threatening such a filibuster. Make the Republicans actually filibuster, instead of merely threatening it. Their obstruction is especially galling considering their insistence on up or down votes for nominees during the Bush administration.

We need leaders like Dawn Johnsen to help us return to being a nation that values the rule of law. I ask you again to vote to confirm her, and to speak with your colleagues in the Senate, especially Senators Reid and Durbin, about the need to have Dawn Johnsen confirmed.

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