With additional reporting from Michael Falcone
Senator Arlen Specter (D-Penn) announced on Tuesday that he will support the nomination of Dawn Johnsen to the post of Office of Legal Counsel in the Justice Department, clearing the way for her confirmation.
"After voting 'pass' (which means no position) in the Judiciary Committee, I had a second extensive meeting with Ms. Johnsen and have been prepared to support her nomination when it reaches the Senate floor," Specter said in a statement provided to the Huffington Post
The change of heart by the Pennsylvania Democrat represents a huge boost for Johnsen's supporters. The nomination has been held up for more than a year after Republicans in the Senate and a few conservative Democrats declined to vote for cloture, citing Johnsen's criticism of the OLC staffers under the Bush administration. The Obama administration announced last week that it was sending Johnsen back to the Senate for confirmation. But there were still questions as to whether she would receive the necessary 60 votes.
Now, Johnsen's backers believe they have a path forward. Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) -- who hails from Johnsen's home state of Indiana -- has indicated he will support her confirmation. Specter gives the White House a 60th vote, as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) remains uncommitted, even on the issue of cloture.
Johnsen will, per Senate rules, have to be confirmed once more by the Senate Judiciary Committee before going to the floor. Considering that she passed through the committee once before, that shouldn't represent much of a hurdle.