March 29, 2010 — On Saturday, President Obama announced that he would use his constitutional authority to bypass the Senate and use recess appointments to fill 15 vacant federal positions, although "in a sign that [he] did not want to go too far in inflaming partisan passions," he declined to appoint Department of Justice nominee Dawn Johnsen, the New York Times reports.
Johnsen -- an Indiana University law professor nominated to head DOJ's Office of Legal Counsel -- has been one of the "most contentious candidates" awaiting Senate confirmation because of her past work as a lawyer for NARAL Pro-Choice America and her vocal opposition to the George W. Bush administration's counterterrorism policies (Stolberg, New York Times, 3/27). The Senate Judiciary Committee in March approved Johnsen's nomination for a second time, although a vote has not been brought before the full Senate (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/8).
The Obama administration currently has 217 nominees pending and 77 awaiting Senate confirmation. The White House said that most of the 15 nominees have bipartisan support and that they have been waiting an average of seven months for confirmation. According to the Times, the appointments mostly fill vacancies on Obama's homeland security and economic teams (New York Times, 3/27).