Senate Democrats, GOP Squabble Over Pro-Abortion Obama Pick Dawn Johnsen

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Dec 26, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Senate Democrats, GOP Squabble Over Pro-Abortion Obama Pick Dawn Johnsen

by Steven Ertelt Editor
December 26
, 2009

Washington, DC ( — Most of the focus on the Senate last week revolved around the pro-abortion government-run health care bill the chamber passed on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans and Democrats squabbled over a pro-abortion nominee President Barack Obama as put forward for a crucial legal position.

Dawn Johnsen, a law professor at Indiana University who is a former legal counsel for the pro-abortion group NARAL, is Obama’s selection to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Her nomination has been delayed by Republicans who oppose her because she is strongly pro-abortion — going as far as saying pregnant women are subjected to a form of slavery — and because of other political reasons.

If confirmed, Johnsen would be in charge of the office that formulates the attorney general’s formal opinions and provides counsel on the thorniest legal questions.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas helped lead the opposition to Johnsen in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved her nomination and sent it to the full Senate.

He has said Johnson "has not demonstrated the seriousness and necessary resolve to address the national security challenges we face."

But, according to a Fox News report, Sen. Patrick Leahy, the head of the judicial committee, said last week that he is disappointed Senate Republicans are stalling on her nomination.

"We promptly reported the president’s nominees to head the Office of Legal Counsel, the Office of Legal Policy, and the Tax Division, and they each received Senate consideration in a matter of days or weeks after they were reported by the committee," Leahy said in a statement.

"As with the judicial nominations, the Republicans have employed new standards of demanding a supermajority and floor time and delays to consider even nominations that could be confirmed easily, grinding our progress to a halt," he added.

Because Senate Republicans are essentially filibustering Johnsen’s nomination and requiring 60 votes for it, Obama could look to alternatives.

He could give the abortion advocate a recess appointment, which would be good until the end of the 111th Congress in January 2011 or until she is confirmed, whichever comes first. To do this, Obama would need to renominate the nominees held over the recess.

In a brief filed when she was a lawyer with NARAL, Johnsen cited a footnote that said forcing women to bear children was "disturbingly suggestive of involuntary servitude, prohibited by the 13th Amendment, in that forced pregnancy requires a woman to provide continuous physical service to the fetus in order to further the state’s asserted interest."

Johnsen told lawmakers at her hearing that she merely suggested an analogy in the footnote and "never believed the 13th Amendment had any role" in the abortion issue.

The pro-abortion activist has come under fire for calling women "fetal containers" and comparing pregnancy with slavery. She has also come under fire for labeling pregnant women "losers in the contraceptive lottery" and comparing pro-lifers to the Klu Klux Klan.

She returned to Indiana University in August to teach a class because of the delay in her nomination.

Johnsen was the Legal Director for NARAL from 1988-1993. After that, she served in the Clinton administration as the Acting Assistant Attorney General heading the Office of Legal Counsel from 1997-1998 and as Deputy Assistant Attorney General from 1993-1996. She also served on the Clinton transition team in 1992.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Johnsen in February, where she received a party-line 11-7 vote in favor of moving her nomination to the full Senate.

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