Obama Discovers Recess Appointments–But Not for Dawn Johnsen

Congratulations to Craig Becker, who has finally gotten his recess appointment to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. As well as 14 other people who were similarly recess appointed today.

Not on that list?

Dawn Johnsen.

Any more questions about why Johnsen hasn’t assumed her role as Assistant Attorney General yet?

Update: I asked the White House for comment on why Johnsen wasn’t included. This is the comment I got back, from Spokesperson Jen Psaki:

Of the 77 people on the calendar, we are only recess appointing 15 and there are a number of qualified individuals the President has nominated that do not fall in this group.  If the Republicans do not end their campaign of obstruction, the President reserves the option of exerting his authority to recess appoint qualified individuals in the future, but our hope is that we can move beyond the partisan politics that have held up the process for the last fifteen months for the good of the American people.

62 replies
  1. Peterr says:

    And still she waits.

    The WH press release at the link in the post says “Because of political posturing, these fifteen appointees have waited an average of 214 days for Senate confirmation.” Had they included Dawn in this group, that average would have gone up by 5%.

  2. Nathan Aschbacher says:

    At this point, the fact that Johnsen hasn’t publicly withdrawn her candidacy for the position, and argue vociferously against the Obama Administration’s continuation of civil-liberties abuses (as she did against Bush) calls to question her resolve on the matter entirely.

    At least before she was a staunch advocate of government accountability, publicly and proudly, now she’s all but vanished. So, the Obama Administration has both been able to keep her out of service, and neutralized her voice by keeping her waiting in the wings.

    • bmaz says:

      That is an excellent point. Not only is she not serving in office, she has been completely taken out of play on very important issues. The Administration has effectively marginalized and silenced a once healthy and vibrant voice.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        How corporate! Isn’t that exactly what corporations try to do with advertising firms, sign the good ones to keep them out of the hands of their competitors?

      • Nathan Aschbacher says:

        Giving the benefit of the doubt that she’s smart enough to have figured that out on her own, it can’t help but make one wonder why she’s even bothering to keep up appearances. Considering all the delays and bullshit up to this point, no sensible person could possibly conclude that even if they were given the job tomorrow that they’d have any legitimate pull institutionally. She’d have an adversary in the White House, not an ally.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      I was looking at it the other way — that as long as she’s not in office, I can still believe that she has a constitutional spine and isn’t a heartbreaking crookmongering shapeshifter. In short, I could still hope. Darn.

  3. Scarecrow says:

    Surprise? Which of the progressive orgs who pushed for health reform passage demanded Dawn’s appointment as a condition?


  4. HadEnough says:

    Below all the sound and fury of HCR, Teabaggers, and obstructionism, it is the Presidents failures in the area of appointments that leave me disinclined to support him in the future. Judges, department heads, and other government officers are where “change” is truly needed and sorely lacking.

  5. katiejacob says:

    It is pretty obvious that Obama et al doesn’t really want Johnson in there, at least not yet, but is there any way that we could put pressure on the administration to force the issue? Could a big story in a mainstream news outlet be an embarrassment to them?

  6. nomolos says:

    I think that Rove did not want Bush to appoint her. I can hardly wait until a Democrat gets into the WH so this kind of dirty dealing will be over.

  7. mzchief says:

    OT re insurers continue gaming the system:

    “The Star-Telegram notes that the Democrats’ recently-passed health reform law comes several months too late for Houston — the provision banning insurers from denying coverage on the basis of “pre-existing conditions” doesn’t come into effect until September.

    But whether or not Houston would have received coverage even if he had been born after September is a matter of some debate. The Associated Press reports that some health care advocates and insurance companies are saying that “the law does not clearly state that such protection starts this year.”

    If it doesn’t, uninsured children with pre-existing conditions might not get help until 2014, when the law requires insurers to issue policies for all applicants regardless of health condition. There is no doubt that for children who are enrolled in insurance plans, the new law bars insurers from excluding coverage of any pre-existing conditions.

    In response to the concerns, the Obama administration is reportedly planning to issue “clarifying regulations” which will assert that children can’t be denied coverage for pre-existing coverage as of this year, AP reports.

    “To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, the Secretary of HHS is preparing to issue regulations next month making it clear that the term ‘pre-existing exclusion’ applies to both a child’s access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan,” said Health and Human Services spokesman Nick Papas.'”

    – from “Newborn denied health coverage over ‘pre-existing condition’

  8. JasonLeopold says:

    You know, I have to say that I think Obama just doesn’t care or isn’t paying attention or …. I don’t know. There are also many US attorneys he hasn’t appointed as well.

    A bit OT (and sorry if I am repeating something previously discussed), but, as Glenn Greenwald wrote, the other day Obama gave an interview to an Indonesian television station and he was specifically asked about whether he felt that Indonesia had been handling it’s past record of human rights abuses appropriately. Here’s what Obama said:

    We have to acknowledge that those past human rights abuses existed. We can’t go forward without looking backwards.

    But hey, how about that health care “reform!”

  9. EternalVigilance says:

    Why is anyone confused about this? It’s the same strategy Obama has used with everything else – seduce and mislead the marks with an ambiguous promise which allows the gullible to project their positive fantasies, and then continue to advance the agenda of the plutocracy.

    “Hope” “Change” “Rule of law”

    Having Johnsen nominated while the job of legal oversight remains undone is the best of all worlds for them.

  10. jimjr says:

    Not to mention Obama has not even nominated people to fill most of the judicial vacancies. As of today there are 103 federal judge vacancies and only 38 nominations.

  11. JTMinIA says:

    Be honest: which is worse: to be hired and then squeezed out by Rahmbo (like Craig) or never hired in the first place?

    • bmaz says:

      Decent question; depends on the person and their personalities I suppose. For Johnson though, she appears to have lost at least a semester, if not more, of her job and moved herself to Washington for a while, so there were certainly tangible costs.

  12. JTMinIA says:

    If losing a semester to politics is a bad thing then this blog owes me more than Obama owes Johnsen. /tee hee

    But I get your point. And, yet, I still wonder if actually appointing her and then having her “resign” around August would be worse. Right now, at least, there’s the implied threat against new Yoos that she could be hired at some point and rip Yoo (as it were) a new one.

  13. Hmmm says:

    EPU’d: I would also consider the Afgnanistan drone assassinations and the possibility than any decent lawyer would call bullshit on all that. Which also brings up the question of how they can possibly retroactively whitewash that afterwards. Tangled web, that.

      • thatvisionthing says:

        Killing as if we were gods, what could go wrong?

        If I could, I’d post a Mr. Fish cartoon here from 2007 that shows Bush with a caption bubble:

        “The CIA failed America by holding onto vital pre-9/11 intelligence indicating that if we continued pissing on everybody else all over the world that something terrible might happen.”

        Amy Goodman did an interview with PW Singer a year ago talking about his book on drone wars, Wired for War:

        And this question of messaging, one of the people that I met with was a senior Bush administration official, and he said, “The unmanning of war plays to our strength. The thing that scares people is our technology.” But that’s very different when you go meet with someone, for example, in Lebanon. One of the people that I met with for the book was an editor of a leading newspaper there. And he had to say that basically this shows that you are cowardly, that you are not man enough to come fight us. So a disconnect between message we think we’re sending versus message that’s being received.

        Or another illustration of this would be, there was a popular music—one of the hit songs in Pakistan last year talked about how the Americans look at us like insects.

        I wonder if the CIA listens to Pakistani pop radio? I wonder if they can analyze that and produce anything resembling intelligence?

        Ta da.

          • thatvisionthing says:

            Bill Moyers interviewed Greg Mortenson, author of Three Cups of Tea and now Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan earlier this year:

            BILL MOYERS: It costs us a million dollars a year to keep one soldier there. That’s $30 billion for the new 30,000 troops.

            GREG MORTENSON: And ultimately–

            BILL MOYERS: How many schools could you build with that?

            GREG MORTENSON: Well, $1 million we could build 30 or 40 schools. And in one generation we could have over 20,000, 30,000 kids educated. But I do think, the worst thing we can do is do nothing. And, like Vice President Joe Biden and columnist George Will, the conservative columnist, have both recommended pulling out the troops but doing more selected targeted bombings. And I can tell you, of all things that the elders say is, please, do not bomb and kill civilians. That is the number one way to antagonize people.

            It just makes me want to cry.

  14. aardvark says:

    I get it. The Obama administration, knowing the Republicans to be obstructionist, nominate people who they really don’t want to have the posts, to the posts, so the Republicans can block them, thus achieving the administrations original purpose, which is to keep them out. So, Obama nominated Dawn Johnson to be the Assistant AG, because he really wanted to keep her out of the position and he knew the Republicans would block her appointment as long as they could, and now the fact that he did not appoint her to the position using a recess appointment proves the point that he did not want her in the first place and nominated her in order to keep her out.

    That is the sort of logic I read in this thread.

  15. JohnLopresti says:

    I think the Elephant*s current work to consolidate an aggregate of reactionary fringe splinter factions will keep the polemics consistently against a lady prof who worked at Naral. I wonder if Dawn and Obama can decide conjointly on another lady with similar credentials for Olc leadership, perhaps someone outspoken against cruel unusual treatment in the setting of multiyears*long executive detention. The latter issue is going to mature in the venue settings and the winnowing of detainees between nonUCMJ proceedings inside the Caribbean pokey and stateside civilian A3courts. The torture issue is likely to last until it is resolved for US policy purposes, irrespective of which party is in the White House. Maybe it is true that Rove has capital in assuring parliamentary-style stasis in the legislative as a judo to obstruct the executive during Democratic party times.

    ~OTpunditrists are anticipating a federal judgeship nomination over a candidate Obama has put forth in IX, replies to interrogatories, hearing in a few weeks; some of his positions are conservative but many distinctly are more like Democratic concepts. Curiously, a 3L with Yoo as an advisor has constructed a webpage supporting the nominee*s right to a day at hearing; the link is somewhere at LegalTimes, I have yet to visit. Poor 3L.

    Recess appointments are handicapped by abbreviated term of office. I respect Obama and Johnsen for wanting a strong accession, but there are alternatives. The judge nominee I referenced is part of the same ACS organization as Johnsen. Ultimately, heck, if Obama wants to be confrontational and not address ew*s insightful observation about rule of law, I would expect MLed to put on a JGRobertsJr-like performance in SJC. Among the committee members is the Republican who currently has put a senate hold on an unemployment extension; figures; very modern style Republican, that TX gentleman. Census predicters are expecting TX to gain members in the House.

    • bmaz says:

      I assume you are talking about Liu. The GOP is going to Bork him hard. They will literally try anything and everything to destroy him; it will be all out war. He is very liberal, very good and very young and they have a strategy to demolish him so that he not only doesn’t get a seat on the 9th, but so that he is never considered for the Supremes.

      • JohnLopresti says:

        Might be a funny contest. Who of LHTrib*s stature do Repubs have to expose Liu*s centrism? Oh, I know: Palin can testify. Trib received an interesting post a few days after a recent conference on indigent counsel. Saw Bork nonplussed at his hearing on television; yay.

  16. bmaz says:

    Well Marcy, that update you posted was awfully helpful. Please convey my thanks to the tireless White House personnel who slaved away on that. Of course, I guess you are doing pretty good, they (the WH) refused to even respond to my question as to when they anticipated calling for a floor vote on Johnsen. I was, however, able to obtain a similarly helpful response from Harry Reid’s office on said question:

    Senator Reid is committed to advancing all of the President’s well-qualified nominees, including the nomination of Dawn Johnson. We are working with the White House and hope to consider the nomination as soon as possible. Unfortunately, as we have already seen this Congress, Senate Republicans have chosen to play politics with not only Justice Department officials but also key Homeland Security officials. The American people deserve better.

    Yes, Senator Reid we sure do deserve better than that disingenuous pablum. Like an answer to the question would have been a nice start. And in case you are reading Harry, as soon as possible would have been last July 7 when Al Franken became your 60th vote for confirmation; but, hey, thanks for the tireless work on her nomination.

    • thatvisionthing says:

      Senator Reid is committed to advancing all of the President’s well-qualified nominees, including the nomination of Dawn Johnson. We are working with the White House and hope to consider the nomination as soon as possible. Unfortunately, as we have already seen this Congress, Senate Republicans have chosen to play politics with not only Justice Department officials but also key Homeland Security officials. The American people deserve better.

      Is that a straight cut and paste from Harry Reid’s office? I thought her name was Johnsen.

      • bmaz says:

        Yes, that was cut and pasted straight from their email to me. It was an individual response to me though, not a press release so I think the person is entitled to a pass on that; I have absentmindedly typed her name with the common spelling often too.

    • kgb999 says:

      Well, in all fairness to Reid, as Dan Froomkin points out, on February 9th, Harry Reid made his recommendation for how to proceed crystal clear and stated it into the congressional record – directly stated to “Mr. President”.

      I have told the President enough is enough. He has the right, as President of the United States, to do recess appointments. It should be done. What is being done to this President is unfair. It has never been done before. We have had to file cloture on many Presidential nominations that President Bush never had to do.
      I would hope the American people understand what is going on here with this party of no. I have been a person who has gotten along very well in my career, Mr. President, being a very moderate person, trying to be someone who gets along with Democrats and Republicans, but I am obligated to speak out as to what is going on here, and I have only picked two of the numerous people being held up. There are scores of them being held up for reasons that have nothing to do with anything dealing with these people or how they will function once in office.

      Frankly, I think the President should recess all of them–all of them. He has been given very little recognition for the importance of the job that he has been doing in trying to find the best people in America to fill these positions. No one can say Democrats did this when we were in the minority. We didn’t do this. There were people held up, but this is something that is beyond the pale.

      I don’t think you understand how Harry Reid works. That, for a quiet diplomat, is full on public combat – I can’t believe he did that without first making his opinion very clear in private. That was him clearing the air and putting the ball in Obama’s court – asking for action and pointing out that he has experience out the wazu to base his opinion on. Seriously, Reid is in charge of getting stuff done in the Senate and he in no uncertain terms told the President what he needed to succeed at the job. The president, instead listened to Rham “five years in the house” Emmanuel that this “would poison the well” or some such nonsense.

      What do you want Reid to say: “Obama is an asshole who won’t listen to me!” That’s really not his style – it’s going to be pretty bad going for the dems if Rham pushes Reid into a public war with the White House. IMO, Reid is going to try and do like Yucca Mountain as long as he thinks he’s safe for reelection and quietly look for what he can pull off in light of a White House that is giving him zero to work with at best or kicking him in the teeth at worst. The problem isn’t Reid in the senate. If Reid were in calling the shots, Dawn Johnson would already be in her office(if you read the whole thing, it seems like he would have done it over President’s day recess). The problem is that Reid is not being allowed to call the shots. Honestly, what would you have him do now that the president has clearly told him to shove his advise on how to get stuff done?

      • bmaz says:

        In “fairness” what Reid could do is quit being disingenuous and quit giving cover to Obama by saying it is Republican obstuctionism when he knows the votes were there (last year) or could be there (this year). There is a lot that Harry Reid could do that he doesn’t, and it is not all Obama’s fault, although Dawn Johnsen’s situation certainly is attributable to Obama and not Reid.

        • kgb999 says:

          I agree, to a degree. It still seems mostly what you wish is for Reid to enter direct conflict with the White House – as you say remove their political cover – because if the votes are there, we know Reid has no reason to hold anyone, so someone must not be wanting to bring her forward. As a radical, I’d love for him to call them out. I just don’t see Harry Reid being one to openly challenge other members the leadership team unless he has absolutely no other choice for his own survival. If he gets into real trouble in Nevada, I suspect he’ll get more aggressive.

          But whatever criticism of Reid is warranted, and he deserves plenty, ultimately he is on record pretty clearly asking Obama to recess appoint everyone not yet seated – in no uncertain terms. So, in this specific case, were Obama to have listened to Reid, we wouldn’t be talking about major appointment vacancies again until January 2012. (hmmmm – would Obama want that to crop up in his election year?)

          • bmaz says:

            I absolutely agree with you here. And yes I do kind of deep down wish Reid would take a poke at Obama over this, but fully understand why he does not and, quite frankly, as you point out, it is extremely understandable. I do not fault Reid on this and, if you have read my posts on Johnsen, I have consistently pointed the finger at Obama, and that is exactly where the finger should be pointed, it is not the fault of the Senate or the Republicans.

  17. john in sacramento says:

    Update: I asked the White House for comment on why Johnsen wasn’t included. This is the comment I got back, from Spokesperson Jen Psaki:

    Of the 77 people on the calendar, we are only recess appointing 15 and there are a number of qualified individuals the President has nominated that do not fall in this group. If the Republicans do not end their campaign of obstruction, the President reserves the option of exerting his authority to recess appoint qualified individuals in the future, but our hope is that we can move beyond the partisan politics that have held up the process for the last fifteen months for the good of the American people.

    Hmmm, is Jen Psaki related to Baghdad Bob?

    • justalacky says:

      for the good of the American people.

      that they’re able to say that, in reference to anything now, is a simple amazement

  18. Danno11 says:

    I saw the post on Kos and her name was the first thing I looked for on the release.

    Still looking….wtf?!?!?

  19. GeorgeJohnston says:

    Obama is probably waiting for the statute of limitations runs out on Bush junta crimes before he fills positions with people who might investigate Republican treachery, torture and treasury robbing.

    • bmaz says:

      Well maybe, but OLC has nothing to do with investigating or prosecuting anything; they do nothing but provide opinions and guidance to to executive branch officers so that doesn’t explain it as to Johnsen.

  20. orionATL says:

    johnL @38

    thanks for this and many other informative comments.

    hope you enjoyed your tour of pitcairn isl.

    i seem to recall that the approaches to the island (from a sailor’s perspective) are difficult enough to be freightening.

  21. Larue says:

    Damn, another slap in the face of we the people and the appointees we need to bring this country back on track for the benefit of all of us, not just the 1%. Thanks for the post EW!

    Haven’t said how much I appreciate your work in a while so I choose Dawn Johnson’s failed appointment, to thank you once again for all you do on all the things you do it on.

    Bless ya.

Comments are closed.