- The Washington Times - Monday, December 28, 2009

Johnsen stalled

The Senate sent six of President Obama’s nominees for various executive positions back to the White House before it broke for holiday recess last week.

Senators approved a slew of nominees by unanimous consent Dec. 24, but a half-dozen will have to be nominated again if the president still wants them for the positions.

One of them is Dawn Johnsen, who the White House selected to become head of the Office of Legal Counsel, which gives legal advice to the president. Although Mr. Obama could give her a temporary recess appointment, her appointment has met opposition from both parties, making it likelier that it will languish.

Ms. Johnsen, a professor of law at Indiana University, former legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America and staff counsel fellow for the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project, has been criticized for several statements she’s made in the past.

One has been particularly controversial. In a legal brief she filed on behalf of NARAL in 1989, she compared pregnancy to slavery. She said forcing women to carry an unwanted child 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.”

As a result of statements like these Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, has questioned her position on abortion. Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Democrat, threatened to filibuster her appointment, and Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, has described her as an “ideologue.”

Pointing the finger

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat and Judiciary Committee chairman, says 20 nominations that have been passed by his committee have been waiting for a Senate vote for four months or longer.

He blames the Republicans.

“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,” Mr. Leahy said in a long statement recapping work the judiciary committee had completed this year.

Not a word

Noticeably absent from WhiteHouse.gov over the weekend was any mention of the terrorist attempt to detonate Northwest Flight 253. On Sunday afternoon, a day after the attempted attack, the main page touted holiday wishes from the first family, praise for the Senate for passing health care reform legislation, and the administration’s efforts to create jobs.

“Not a word on whitehouse.gov from any official about the U.S. response or, just at the consumer level, what travelers should prepare for in the days ahead in terms of ramped up security at airports and in aircraft,” wrote Lynn Sweet, a longtime Obama tracker and reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Spin cycle

One of the most recent postings on the White House Web site came from deep inside the spin zone.

President Obama’s communications director, Dan Pfeiffer, bashed “today’s Republican talking point of the day” in a Dec. 24 entry on the White House blog, criticizing the GOP for saying the bill passed without a single vote from its party.

While Mr. Pfeiffer acknowledged the factual point that no Republicans voted for the bill “may be true,” he said “it’s not a commentary on this bill.” Rather, the White House spokesman said, “it’s a commentary on the Republican Party, whose leaders made a determination that they were going to put party over progress.”

Mr. Pfeiffer said the bill had plenty of GOP input because of the “months of bipartisan discussions” that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, held in drafting the bill. The White House also noted the finance committee held “a day-long bipartisan health care summit” as well as “three bipartisan roundtables, and even issued three bipartisan policy papers.”

Vacation rental

President Obama’s Christmas Hawaiian vacation spot didn’t come cheap.

The sleuths at TheSmokingGun.com snagged a rental listing for the $9 million Oahu compound that the Obama family cooled their heels at over the holiday.

According to the listing, the five-bedroom, beachfront property costs between $2,500 and $3,500 per night.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at acarpenter@washingtontimes.com.

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