Moving forward on Johnsen, Koh

MOVING FORWARD ON JOHNSEN, KOH…. As of about a month ago, Dawn Johnsen’s OLC nomination was stalled because “only” 57 senators were on record supporting confirmation. Senate Republicans refuse to allow the chamber to give Johnsen an up-or-down vote, and four senators — Olympia Snowe, Susan Collins, Arlen Specter, and Ben Nelson — were undecided on the minority’s filibuster.

It’s never been at all clear to me why these four were on the fence. Nelson complains that Johnsen is pro-choice, but that’s a crazy reason to support a filibuster. Snowe, Collins, and Specter are themselves pro-choice, but remained undecided for unclear reasons.

Now, there appears to be at least signs of progress on Johnsen’s nomination. Brian Beutler reports:

Johnsen — who was nominated in April to head the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel — has been spotted around Washington in recent days, and is rumored to have moved in to town. And she’s certainly not here to work for Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE).

And what about former Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, nominated by the president to serve as a legal advisor to the State Department, but who can’t get an up-or-down vote because Republicans won’t let him? There’s apparently been some progress on that front, too. David Weigel reports:

A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) tells me that the senator is filing cloture on Harold Koh, the president’s nominee for State Department Legal Adviser, “right now.” … There’s confidence that Koh has 60 votes — that’s why they’re going ahead — and there’s disappointment that it came to this instead of some kind of a deal. “The Republicans would not agree to an up or down vote,” said a Reid spokesman. “We had hoped they would not block his nomination and would agree to move him by a regular majority vote.” Instead, they’re looking at a debate that could last several days.

The right-wing smear campaign against Harold Koh has been pretty nauseating. (For more background, or a refresher, check out Hilzoy’s item from April.)

Confirmation for Koh and Johnsen are long overdue. I’m glad to see some signs of progress.