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One of the key administration nominees, Dawn Johnsen for head of the Office of Legal Counsel, was approved today by the Judiciary Committee by a vote of 12-7, on her way to waiting potentially another year for a vote in the full Senate. She was approved 11-7 last year, only to see her nomination get stuck by a promise on the part of Ben Nelson to join in a Republican filibuster of her because of her past service as legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

The BLT reports:

In an hour-long debate today, senators painted contrasting portraits of Johnsen as either a radical liberal or a respected academic.

“No one on the Republican side has questioned Dawn Johnsen’s qualifications to hold this office,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), referencing her service in the Office of Legal Counsel during the Clinton administration. In an attempt to rebut criticism of Johnsen’s time as legal director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, from 1988 to 1993, Durbin noted that Johnsen has taught Sunday school and is a mother of two....

For Republicans, the hearing was also a chance to defend two former OLC lawyers who worked on memos about interrogation: Jay Bybee, a former assistant attorney general now a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, and John Yoo, a University of California at Berkeley law professor.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said that Bybee and Yoo have been treated shabbily. “They’re two brilliant guys,” he said. “They wrote an opinion that people disagree with, and that I think could have been written better. On the other hand, they’re both excellent people, they both worked with this committee, and they’re both respected in the law.”

Yep, leave it up to the very principled and deeply religious Orrin Hatch to bring up the totally irrelevant to this nomination pro-torture argument. The only way this nomination gets passed the torture cheerleaders and Ben Nelson is if Obama decides to take advantage of the Easter recess and pull the trigger on those threatened recess appointments.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Thu Mar 04, 2010 at 02:32 PM PST.

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