Remember Harold Koh? Full Senate Expected to Vote on His Nomination on Wednesday

by Chris Borgen

Well, it’s about time. 

On Monday, Senator Harry Reid moved for cloture of debate on the nomination of Harold Koh to be the State Department’s legal adviser. (Be sure to check out this article.) Sixty votes will be needed for cloture and then fifty votes for his confirmation. Both votes are expected to come this Wednesday, assuming no further shenanigans.

Three months ago, the legal blogosphere was abuzz with posts concerning Koh’s nomination to be the top lawyer at the State Department. For most, the nomination was a no-brainer: an influential international legal scholar and the Dean of Yale Law School, he had already served in government in the Reagan and Clinton administrations, most recently as Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

But then various pundits decided to caricature and demonize him. In the days and weeks to followed, there was a robust airing of his views and, I think, a debunking of the misconceptions promulgated by some.

Koh testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee almost two months ago, had submitted written answers to the Senate before that, was subject to a public debate via the blogosphere and op-ed pages (see, for example, the Opinio Juris posts here, and IntLawGrrl posts here, each of which reference posts from other sites), received endorsements from a who’s who of legal scholars and practicing attorneys, including former Solicitor General Theodore Olson, former Judge Ken Starr, former Bush Chief of Staff Josh Bolten, seven former State Department legal advisers and 103 law school deans (to name a few), and was succesfully voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by a 12-5 vote, including the support of the committee’s leadership, Senators Kerry and Lugar. 

Nonetheless,  Senators Vitter and Cornyn put a procedural hold on the full-Senate vote needed for his confirmation. This seemed to be less about the need to further explore Koh’s views, which by this point had received more scrutiny than any nominee for the post of Legal Adviser had ever had, and more just an attempt to play procedural “Gotcha!”

OK, partisan politics can be fun, but with unrest in Iran, North Korea acting even weirder than usual, and pressing issues in Afghanistan and Iraq (to name a few current concerns), wouldn’t it be a good idea to move forward on the nomination of the State Department’s top lawyer? The vote for cloture may be contentious. It should not be.  Koh has been thoroughly vetted. It is time to set aside partisan politics, vote on Harold Koh’s nomination, and confirm him.

One Response

  1. This is one of the things I hate most about politics.  People are fighting just to raise a ruckus.  Or maybe it’s just to draw attention to themselves and prove they have some sort of clout.  It seems childish.

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