Let’s Go Three-for-Three: Don’t Give the Right Wing a Win on Obama’s Nominees

Nancy Keenan

In her reader diary, Nancy Keenan writes: The media is abuzz with stories of GOP obstructionism of some of Obama's nominees. NARAL Pro-Choice America is taking action to keep the pressure on.

[This post originaly appeared in The Huffington Post.]

The blogosphere is abuzz with stories of GOP obstructionism of some of President Obama’s nominees to crucial posts. Random and ridiculous reasons have been given for various nominees… and they even used the "f" word: Filibuster.

The use of "filibuster" when referring to any of these highly qualified nominees is unacceptable and NARAL Pro-Choice America is taking action. Anti-choice lawmakers and activists are attacking three particular nominees simply because they’ve taken pro-choice positions: Judge David Hamilton, Prof. Dawn Johnsen, and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. We will keep the pressure on until we go "three-for-three" and see these distinguished, well-qualified nominees confirmed by the Senate.

Why does this all matter now? Well, it’s early in the Obama administration and we’re seeing the start of what will be an orchestrated right-wing campaign to attack Obama nominees. Disagreeing with these three nominees on choice isn’t enough for anti-choice senators and their allies. They are engaged in an all-out effort to use anti-choice rhetoric, and the threat of filibuster, in attacking Hamilton, Johnsen, and Sebelius as a test case to see just how far they can go. If they succeed, they will be emboldened to shred the credibility of future nominees simply to appease their right-wing base.

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So who are these nominees, and why is it important for America’s pro-choice majority to take action to make sure the senate confirms them?

Let’s get to know them, starting with Judge David Hamilton.

President Obama nominated Judge David Hamilton, a district court judge in Indiana and the president’s first judicial nominee, to serve on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Hamilton has the bipartisan support of his home-state senators, Sens. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar, and received a "well-qualified" rating from the American Bar Association. So far so good, right? Not if you talk to Matthew Staver of the conservative Liberty Counsel:

So he’s indicated, obviously, based on his affiliation with the ACLU and his rulings that he is somebody who believes in abortion and will legislate it from the bench. He’s somebody who doesn’t understand and respect our history and certainly doesn’t respect the original understanding of the constitution.

Obvious to whom, I might ask? Or could it be that anti-choice activists are opposing someone solely based on pro-choice positions?

Moving on to Prof. Dawn Johnsen. President Obama nominated Dawn Johnsen to the position of assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Department of Justice. She is an accomplished lawyer and has spent significant time serving in public office. It’s important to note that Johnsen has already served for several years in the OLC, making her uniquely qualified for this critical position. Johnsen has a long and illustrious record protecting civil liberties and enforcing the law.

Anti-choice bloggers and activists are targeting her nomination largely because she served as legal director at NARAL. As legal director, and also as an advocate at ACLU, Johnsen fought to make reproductive health a priority and a reality. Perhaps that’s why, according to Think Progress:

A Republican Senate staffer told Horton that the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to head the Office of Legal Counsel has particularly raised the hackles of Senate Republicans. "Not a single Republican indicated an intention to vote for Dawn Johnsen, while Senator John Cornyn of Texas was described as ‘gunning for her’…" (HT: Joshua Blog)

Sen. Cornyn went further to claim that Johnsen doesn’t have the "requisite seriousness" for the job (HT Tapped). And, ironically enough, he was serious.

Finally, NARAL Pro-Choice America is fighting for Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, nominated to the position of Health and Human Services secretary. Gov. Sebelius has spent the last 20 years in public service, ensuring that Kansans are healthy and safe, first as a state representative and then as insurance commissioner.

As governor, Sebelius has a strong record of protecting women’s access to reproductive-health services and information. Americans United for Life said:

… Gov. Sebelius’ record demonstrates that she is unfit to serve as HHS Secretary and should not be in a position to make such important policy determinations.

A spokesperson for Sen. Cornyn then said:

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a Finance Committee member, has already decided to oppose Sebelius’s confirmation, largely because of her record in favor of abortion rights, a spokesman said. "For Sen. Cornyn, his reservations are specifically over the abortion issue," the spokesman said.

That’s why pro-choice activists nationwide are contacting key senators:

Those targets won’t come as much surprise. [Donna] Crane says, "in general the senators we look at for these kinds of issues are the two senators from Maine, [Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins] pulled one way by their party and another by their values." She adds that "Sen. Specter…is somebody we’re looking at very closely."

You can help us go "three-for-three" by urging your senators to confirm all three nominees when they come up for floor votes.

The right wing has made these nominees their test case on how to derail President Obama’s efforts to put qualified persons in key posts. Our goal is to make sure they fail this test.

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