By Ed O'Keefe and Scott Butterworth
Friday, December 25, 2009; A06
The Senate confirmed more than 30 of President Obama's choices for federal posts Thursday, but six other nominations were sent back to the White House, including three for senior positions at the Justice Department.
The White House must now decide whether to renominate Dawn E. Johnsen, Obama's choice to oversee the Office of Legal Counsel; Mary L. Smith, tapped to head the Tax Division; and Christopher H. Schroeder, proposed as assistant attorney general for legal policy, next year.
The Senate did not take a formal vote Thursday on any of the officials, but Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said, "They ran into opposition."
Johnsen's nomination, in particular, has been controversial from the moment in January when Obama announced her as his choice. She was outspoken in her criticism of the Justice Department during President George W. Bush's administration as "tainted" by political considerations.
Republicans questioned during a hearing on her appointment whether Johnsen had the "requisite seriousness" to head the Office of Legal Counsel.
The Justice Department is already dealing with one impending vacancy among its senior ranks: Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden is leaving the department in February to return to a private law partnership.
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. announced Wednesday night that Gary Grindler will step in as Ogden's replacement until a permanent deputy is confirmed.
Grindler has been serving since March as deputy assistant attorney general in the department's criminal division. Previously, he was a partner at King & Spalding LLP in Washington.
Another nomination returned to the White House was that of M. Patricia Smith, the New York state labor commissioner nominated as the Labor Department's solicitor of labor.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved her nomination in October, but Republicans put a hold on her confirmation vote as they questioned whether she testified truthfully about a New York program to root out companies that do not pay proper wages.