Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dawn Johnsen Withdraws: Why Not a Recess Appointment?

Almost two weeks ago, President Obama announced that he would make 15 recess appointments of individuals whose nominations to various positions were mired in partisan shenanigans.  Yesterday, Dawn Johnsen, a well respect, liberal constitutional law professor, withdrew her name from consideration for head of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department.

Johnsen faced nonsubstantive opposition from conservatives in the Senate, who simply stalled her nomination just as they delayed the 15 others who recently received recess appointments.  So, I wonder why Obama did not include Johnsen on the list of 15 appointees.  I suspect Johnsen saw the news about the recess appointments and wondered the same herself.

According to the New York Times, an anonymous White House source says that Obama did not include Johnsen on the list of 15 recess appointments "because that would have undermined the effort to put the Office of Legal Counsel’s work above the partisan fray."  The White House, however, has not consistently follow this line of reasoning. 

Obama has repeatedly said that he wants to rise above partisanship (not simply regarding the Office of Legal Counsel).  The recess appointment of the 15 other nominees, however, lead to predictable partisan outcry.  Both parties condemn recess appointments when the other party makes them.  Besides, it is clear that partisan lines are firmly drawn in Washington.  I am not convinced that Obama can avoid partisan bickering on any matter of critical importance.

Note: Salon's Gleen Greenwald is trying to figure out what happened with Johnsen as well.  See: The death of Dawn Johnsen's nomination.

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