OLC: Grand Obstruction Party Still Obstructing Dawn Johnsen’s Nomination

Listen my children and you shall hear, of the continued obstruction and gooberish fear…

The Grand Obstruction Party and weak-kneed Democratic leadership. Still at it:

Still unconfirmed are three circuit court nominees and four nominees for assistant attorney general positions, including Dawn Johnsen for the Office of Legal Counsel. Democrats need Republican agreement in order to move the nominees forward, unless they want to use days of time on the Senate floor.

And there it is, in a nutshell. 

What I’ve been hearing all along is that Johnsen does have the votes to get past cloture — with both Nelson and Specter intending to vote for cloture, regardless of their ultimate nomination vote.  So, what’s the hold-up in bringing this vote to the floor?

The lack of leadership willpower to expend political capital and Senate floor time to force it through.

In other words, the Democratic leadership will not go to the mattresses for these nominees and the GOP knows they are too weak to do it.

As David Waldman has patiently explained, time and time again, the mere threat of a filibuster-esque thought on a particular nominee or legislative whimsy is enough to send the Democratic leadership in the Senate off with a case of the immobilized vapors:

So do Republicans intend to filibuster the bill? Probably not in the sense that they want to see it killed, which means they’ll deny that they’re engaged in a filibuster, or even threatening one. But make no mistake, there is no reason why anything in the Senate requires 60 votes except to end a filibuster, whether one materializes out in the open or not. If the threat is that the bill’s opponents will force a 60 vote threshold unless they get an opportunity to change the bill, the threat is nothing other than a threat to filibuster.

Will a filibuster materialize? Probably not, at least not one seriously aimed at killing the bill. Instead, concessions will be made that should guarantee forward progress on some amended form of the bill. . . . expect a deal to be struck that should eliminate the possibility of a successful filibuster that would actually prevent the bill from coming to a vote. And that’s what will matter to the Senate leadership.

That was David on the stimulus package showboating.  But the same applies to nearly every other stoppage in the Senate before and since.

The Times-Mail, Johnsen’s hometown newspaper, indicated way back on July 25th (subs. req.) that DOJ spokesperson Matt Miller was confident Johnsen had the votes for confirmation on a press conference call. But hold yer horses, kids, because Government Executive says they don’t — although they fail to establish from which source they heard this since its anonymously dropped into the end of the article on breaking the GOP nominations logjam:

Dawn Johnsen, nominated to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, appears to lack the 60 votes to overcome GOP opposition and is not likely to have a confirmation vote soon. David Hamilton, nominated to be a circuit court judge in Indiana, faces a hold by Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., who said on Tuesday he has no plans to lift it.

Why do we continue to see this stalling tactic without an actual filibuster? Because it continues to work.

 
57 Responses to "OLC: Grand Obstruction Party Still Obstructing Dawn Johnsen’s Nomination"
Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 05:42 am 1

Morning all. I need more coffee. Gray, drizzly day here. How are things with you?


SanderO | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:08 am 2

Christy,

You are terrific, brilliant and compassionate, but I think a bit naive that this system we have can work if a few of the right people do the right thing.

We really have a very foul mess, and little chance of getting it sorted out with reason and right actions by ethical people. But I suppose we need to try everything.

In the end it will collpase and the struggle will be to see whose standing and what happens after the fall.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:11 am 3
In response to SanderO @ 2

You know why its not naive? Because it has worked that way in the past. And I give you Sam Ervin as exhibit A. And Barbara Jordan as Exhibit B.

It only takes a few people standing up to make things right themselves. But to get them there, we all have to start pushing a LOT harder from the outside.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:12 am 4

By “they”, I assume that you mean Harry Reid. This man is the poster boy for why the senority system should be abolished in the Senate and leadership should be chosen by vote and those votes should occur at a minimum of annually. Need more than Scyphozoa Harry Reid? How about Max, (I’ll give away anything for just one Republican vote), Baucus. Just these two men have done more damage to the agenda that President Obama was elected to carry out than the 40 Republicans in the body.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:13 am 5

btw, I just love the picture above. Hope everyone else gets a giggle out of it, too. *g*


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:14 am 6
In response to Margaret @ 4

Reid is pretty bad. But it isn’t just him, alas. It’s also folks like Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh and all the other squishy bipartisan zombies who prefer to hold things up for their own personal benefit. I tire of it. SIGH


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:16 am 7

I wish we could have a grey, drizzly day here. Weeks and weeks of 100 plus degree weather and no rain to speak of. The field outside my window has gone past yellow and brown all the way into grey, it’s so dry.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:19 am 8
In response to Margaret @ 7

I’m really glad we’re getting a little drizzle. Things were getting hot and crunchy here, too, and that isn’t a good sign for fall if things are too dry. I’d rather have rain and pretty leaves in October, thanks…


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:23 am 9
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 6

Well, I did mention Max Baucus, Christy. Yep. You’re absolutely right. The Republicans sure as heck didn’t have the lack of unity problem holding them back. The fractious nature of the Democratic party is both our strength and our weakness. That weakness should be mitigated by effective leadership but it is not. The Republicans don’t have to offer anything concrete, people will just get sick of the Dems not being able to accomplish anything and will vote for Republicans out of disgust as they did in 1994. Although, as insane and racist as they’ve been, I’m not sure that will happen either. The midterms may come down to who has the biggest hardcore base.


SanderO | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:25 am 10
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 3

These are excellent examples.

But there are many brilliant thinkers such as Gore Vidal and their brilliant works is completely ignore.

My sense is the system is too insular to change, the congress too infected with idiots to see reason, too populated with greedy people to care about the people they are suppose to serve, too ignorant of the principles of this government and too dismissive of the need to act ethically.

A good system has gone too far wrong. It’s not coming back I’m afraid. I suppose we need to keep trying, but signs are it’s getting worse at a faster rate.

Dawn Johnson will do nothing.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:27 am 11

The last two springs here have been so dry that we have had an absolute dearth of wildflowers. I didn’t go on my usual drive this spring to see them and I don’t think I saw even one clump of bluebonnets this year. Not one. That’s a first in my 49 years. These days people who deny climate change are doing so maliciously because even the most apathetic and inattentive person could not still be missing the clues.


johnlal | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:28 am 12

What about all those “recess appointments” we were treated to under the Bush Administration. Does that rule only work for Republicans too?


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:30 am 13
In response to johnlal @ 12

Thus far, the Obama administration has ruled out making recess appointments for any of these folks in the two recesses we’ve had thus far. And they’ve indicated there won’t be any in August, either.

They are an available option, but they do limit the time someone could serve under such an appointment and it may be that, strategically, they don’t see the need — or the impetus — to do so at this point.


TarheelDem | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:34 am 14

In men,

“the vapors” also was a polite euphemism for flatulence.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:37 am 15
In response to TarheelDem @ 14

Mwahahahahahahahaha…so many potential jokes, so little time.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:37 am 16

While I’m thinking about it, who all will be at Netroots Nation this weekend? I have a Friday afternoon panel, so I’ll be there.


TarheelDem | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:39 am 17
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 6

I smell the hand of Holy Joe Lieberman in this, covering for the Bush buddies he so sychophantically served for eight years. There is the one vote out of 60 that might stymie the “Democratic caucus”.

If the reports that there are 60 votes available for cloture, that might mean that there is one Republican willing to shut off a filibuster. And given recent history, I haven’t a clue who that might be. Talk about closely held secrets.


Kassandra | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:41 am 18

I don’t think the powers really WANT Johnson. Tehy sure don’t like that womon they stuck in there to help “regulate” the banks ( can’t remember her name)She wants to bring back a Glass- Steagal type of thing and is getting push back from Rahm ( the administration).
We have a VERY odd situation here. Nearly daily, I hear some policy shift from the WH. I feel like my head’s being pushed thru mush.
Looking forward to seeing how O handles the angry mobs of the unwashed at his town halls. I hope the SS sets up metal detectors for him at least. I don’t think America could take another 911 event right now.
Very odd administration, still relying on old salts from the Bush years…..


foothillsmike | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:42 am 19

A few years ago we had what was called the do nothing congress. Now there is so much happening it is difficult to focus adequately on all of the things that are happening. It has only been 6 months. The thing has to be to keep pushing, realizing that we are going to have to be in it for the long haul. Obama’s election was an opportunity not a victory.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:46 am 20

I’m not going to Netroots Nation this year. I was there last year when it was about half a mile from my home. Last year, being employed menat that I had to juggle schedules. Since I got laid off in January of this year, I have the time but not the money to travel to Pennsylvania.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:48 am 21
In response to TarheelDem @ 17

Yep. And what another great argument Joe LIEberman is for eliminating the seniority system…


oldgold | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:48 am 22

It just isn’t Johnson and liberals that are being abused by the arcane and anti-democratic rules of the Senate.

President Obama nominated Rep. John McHugh (R-NY) to serve as his Secretary of the Army a couple of months ago, and his confirmation seemed like a foregone conclusion.

Concerned that their state could become the home for some Guantanamo Bay detainees, Kansas’ two Republican senators have placed a hold on the nomination of Rep. John M. McHugh as Army secretary.

The Seanate , like the House of Lords, needs to be discarded. It was a bad idea that has gotten worse with time.


sporkovat | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:48 am 23
In response to SanderO @ 10

Jared Diamond’s book Collapse has an anecdote about the extinction of the Viking colonies on Greenland.

Inuit people had always lived there as well, but they and their ways were looked down upon by the pastoralist Vikings, who tended cattle and ate meat and drank milk when possible.

the climate was getting colder, and the already tenuous agricultural ways of the Vikings became unsustainable.

animals starved, then the people.

archeologists examining the middens left behind by the Vikings were surprised at the scarcity of fish bones and skeletons – they found some, mostly gnawed by dogs.

Fish were abundant in the streams of Greenland, but they were Eskimo food, no decent viking would stoop so low.

they starved and vanished rather than adapt and change.

same with the plutocrats that make up the Congressional delegations of both parties, and the elite interests that fund and control them. They are not going to change their ways, and faxes from distant peasants have no weight compared to tens of thousands of dollars in cash on the barrelhead.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:49 am 24
In response to Kassandra @ 18

You don’t get anywhere near any president without going through the metal detectors, let alone just candidates for the office. We had to go through layers of them at the DNC. Can’t imagine they aren’t doing the same at any and all town halls — as they have been since the Reagan years at least.


foothillsmike | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:49 am 25
In response to Margaret @ 20

Gee you are going to miss Bubba’s opening remarks. *g*


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:50 am 26
In response to Margaret @ 20

For folks who aren’t going, I believe several of the panels are going to be webcast. Am working on finding out which ones and will let folks know if and when I know. Just in case it’s a topic/panel of interest for everyone.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:51 am 27
In response to foothillsmike @ 25

Yeah, I’ll just have to battle on….


msmolly | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:51 am 28
In response to Christy Hardin Smith @ 6

btw, I just love the picture above. Hope everyone else gets a giggle out of it, too. *g*

Looks like a Dr. Seuss book, but I can’t make out which one.

And good morning, everyone. Sunny here in NW Indiana, weekend heat broke yesterday so it will only be low 80s here. My grandkids go back to school today.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:52 am 29

Thanks Christy. That will be most welcome. :)


TimO | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:52 am 30

As I see it, the leadership would not expend ANY political capital. Only the inside Washington crowd would see this as a major political battle. 99.9% of the rest of the country would see this as a footnote in the morning paper, which nobody reads any way.

There is no downside whatsoever for the “leadership” (that word is a joke), to push this through. It won’t even warrant a fraction of a news cycle.

Call me naive, but that’s what I think.


foothillsmike | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:53 am 31
In response to oldgold @ 22

Kyl has held up several Interior appointments because he wants Interior to approve a copper mine on federal land. Extortion, blackmail are just some of the thoughts that come to mind.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:54 am 32
In response to oldgold @ 22

I disaggree with some of that. I’m not for eliminating the Senate, just some of it’s arcane practices. Senators, unlike the Lords, are elected after all. Big distiniction and a very important one. Now if they were appointed, I would be four square behind you.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:55 am 33
In response to foothillsmike @ 25

Say what you will about all things Clinton, but the man gives one helluva speech. I may disagree with any number of his policy and initiative issues, but he’s absolutely brilliant in terms of just sitting and talking issues wonkery with him. And he’s got more charisma than any one human being ought to be allowed to have at any one time.

I’m certain he’ll give them a good opening speech. It’s weird because all the time you may be arguing the exact opposite of whatever he’s arguing, part of you wants to agree with him — freaky charisma pull, seriously, and I’m not generally susceptible.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:55 am 34
In response to msmolly @ 28

I believe it is Go Dog Go!


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:57 am 35

And I’m refraining from making the obligatory Blue Dog jokes here… *g*


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:57 am 36

The good thing about Clinton’s opening remarks is that it’s sure to be webcast and archived at Daily Kos. I won’t miss the speech though I will miss the energy the man can create like nobody else.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 06:59 am 37

Going to start my day gang. Another fruitless day of job searching but productive day of weight loss. 80 lbs down and 10 to go! I feel positiviely anorexic! ;)


foothillsmike | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:00 am 38
In response to Margaret @ 36

I think C-span will be covering it.


oldgold | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:02 am 39
In response to Margaret @ 32

California has 70 times the population of Montana and the same number of Senators.

The Senate was created to protect state’s rights and immediately adopted rules to protect slavery. After the Civil War, about the time of Hayes fraudulent election, the Senate was used to keep apartheid in place for damn near a century.

It is and has been a blight on this country.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:05 am 40
In response to oldgold @ 39

I have to say that, as a WV resident, I haven’t had that much of a problem with it. But that’s because we’ve benefited from the extensive largesse of Robert C. Byrd through the years, I suppose. *g* And, as a small state resident, it does help to have some stopgap on tyranny of the majority.

But the extremely large sums of money that get pumped into the Beltway these days overcome whatever policy debate should be happening and grind things to a halt. Its not functioning as intended any longer, and that’s a shame.


Margaret | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:06 am 41
In response to oldgold @ 39

Thanks for the history lesson and especially thanks for describing it in a way that my poor, female brain could grasp. I didn’t know any of those things, being stuck thinking about puppies and ribbons.


SanderO | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:10 am 42

Perhaps I am cynical in that I see that our system does not really allow itself to work as was intended because it has been corrupted beyond “repair”.

While many believe that through political action, it can be made to perform up to spec, in fact it has now change from a democracy to a capitalist dream masquerading as a democracy.

Power has moved to a very very few, who have a smaller sub class of extremely wealthy who run the show and live the high life. You can’t even be heard without lots of money in 99% of the cases. yet if you have money and regardless of your wisdom you have a megaphone.

The system has dumbed down so the stealing and exploitation can carry on without notice, except by the few who get it – Howard Zinn, Naom Chomsky, Gore Vidal etc.

Rage against the machine.


oldgold | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:10 am 43
In response to Margaret @ 41

Margaret, I was simply trying to make my case. What does your being a female have to do with it?


oldtree | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:16 am 44

No, it has to be laid at Reid’s feet. He is a mormon so he won’t say bad things about Bybee. He’s in a GOP state, so he has to act like a GOP even when he is the majority leader of the senate. Does anyone out there know of any, any accomplishment he has to argue in his favor?


Kassandra | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:23 am 45

Oh, I meant “mental detectors”…sorry


foothillsmike | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:26 am 46

I attended a townhall last Saturday. There was no sign of metal detectors.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:27 am 47
In response to foothillsmike @ 46

Was Obama there? Kassandra was talking about one of his, I think, not one for members of Congress. Unless I misunderstood…


twolf1 | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:29 am 48

Jane has a new post up


msmolly | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:31 am 49

I believe it is Go Dog Go!

HAHAHAHAHA!

(Blue Dog jokes indeed!)


foothillsmike | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:32 am 50

We had to go through layers of them at the DNC. Can’t imagine they aren’t doing the same at any and all town halls — as they have been since the Reagan years at least.

I understood this to be saying that there were metal detecters at townhalls,


oldgold | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:33 am 51

One practical step that could be taken by Senate Denocrats is to elect the Majority Leader from strong blue states.
Some of the timidity we have gotten from Daschle and Reed is a result of their own elections being dicey.


Christy Hardin Smith | Tuesday August 11, 2009 07:55 am 52
In response to oldgold @ 51

Absolutely. You’d think that would be common sense, wouldn’t you?

And yet…here we are, with Harry Reid. Why does the word invertebrate pop in my mind?


siri | Tuesday August 11, 2009 08:01 am 53
In response to Margaret @ 37

That’s amazing, Margaret! How did you loose the weight? How long did it take you to do it?
Congratulations!
wow


Kassandra | Tuesday August 11, 2009 08:14 am 54

Actually, I’m surprised with all the gun threats out there that there aren’t metal detectors for the Reps. (i note that the Senators are not lowering their exalted selves to anything but meetings in their offices)
But yes, I was talking about the president and the metal detectors.
I remember the SS being overwhelmed by the crowds before Obama won and just throwing up their hands and letting everybody in. Sure hope THAT doesn’t happen here.


powwow | Tuesday August 11, 2009 10:07 am 55

But when Barack Obama really wants someone confirmed, mysterious doors seem to magically open – and Harry Reid hops right to it, as this quiet, unremarked-upon filing of a cloture motion last Friday, August 7, demonstrates:

NOMINATION OF CASS R. SUNSTEIN TO BE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE OFFICE OF INFORMATION AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS, OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session to consider Calendar No. 167, the nomination of Cass Sunstein to be the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

The clerk will report the nomination.

The bill clerk read the nomination of Cass R. Sunstein, of Massachusetts, to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget.

CLOTURE MOTION

Mr. REID. I have a cloture motion at the desk.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The cloture motion having been presented under rule XXII, the Chair directs the clerk to read the motion.

The bill clerk read as follows:

Cloture Motion

We, the undersigned Senators, in accordance with the provisions of rule XXII of the Standing Rules of the Senate, hereby move to bring to a close debate on the nomination of Cass R. Sunstein, of Massachusetts, to be Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget.

Harry Reid, Joseph I. Lieberman, Mark Udall, Patrick J. Leahy, Daniel K. Akaka, Richard Durbin, Sherrod Brown, Patty Murray, Jeanne Shaheen, John F. Kerry, Robert Menendez, Jack Reed, Mark Begich, Tom Harkin, Sheldon Whitehouse, Ron Wyden, Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

Mr. REID. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the pro forma session on Monday, August 10, not count as the intervening day and that the mandatory quorum be waived.

The PRESIDING OFFICER. Without objection, it is so ordered.

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.go…..sition=all

Come September, the Democrats and Republicans will be forced to openly declare their support of or opposition to Cass Sunstein’s nomination in spite of the existing objection(s) to proceeding to a vote on his confirmation. Because Harry Reid – or those from whom he obediently takes his orders, in open defiance of the separation of powers – decided to file cloture on the Sunstein nomination, potential ‘waste of floor time’ notwithstanding.

The delay on Dawn Johnsen’s confirmation vote will probably continue until:

1. A Democrat stops other business in the Senate until a cloture motion is filed on her behalf;

2. A reporter and/or blogger publicly asks Harry Reid why he won’t file cloture on Johnsen (as he did with Sunstein and Koh) and let the chips fall where they may; or

3. A reporter and/or blogger publicly asks Barack Obama if he thinks Harry Reid should file cloture on Johnsen and let the chips fall where they may.

Meanwhile, I hope Mr. Barron – ably filling in for Dawn at the OLC – continues to issue binding opinions on the Executive Branch that check and restrain the unprincipled, poll-driven actions of the political actors in the White House, as Barron has reportedly done with regard to defining as unConstitutional any involuntary admissions from detainees submitted to the thoroughly-politicized Military Commissions for Muslims system (the latest Levin/Reid-blessed version of which – see Title X, Subtitle D – still purports to allow coerced admissions). More power to Barron and his principled advisors, so long as the politicians continue to play games with Dawn Johnsen’s nomination.


viejolex1 | Tuesday August 11, 2009 02:00 pm 56

Powwow is absolutely right.

The buck doesn’t stop with Reid, it stops with Obama.

A real leader would be pushing, and hard, to get his nominees on board. But they don’t teach leadership at Harvard, so leadership is a foreign concept to the President.


tejanarusa | Tuesday August 11, 2009 04:02 pm 57
In response to Margaret @ 11

Hey, Margaret – if you check in again – are you in the Austin area?

I’m in San Antonio – and I noticed, too, the bluebonnets that are usually everywhere never made an appearance this year. I don’t remember seeing a single one. Weird.
The thermometer on my shaded patio read 100 degrees at 2:00 p.m. today. 45th day of 100 or 100+, I think. I’m having trouble keeping track.
Of course, any time I complain katymine or someone else in AZ mentions it’s been 112 that day…*g*.
I’m doing my errands (also unemployed) early a.m. or after sundown.
(Hang in there, though – after 8 mos. of barely over a month of temp and project work, I’ve been hired for another project at very good pay beginning last week of Aug.
I hope something pops up for you, too, and soon.)


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