Mukasey clears nomination hurdle

Michael Mukasey, President Bush

Michael Mukasey, President Bush’s pick for attorney general, was virtually assured confirmation this week, after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 11–8 to send his nomination to the full Senate. Two Democratic senators, Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California, joined nine Republicans to provide Mukasey his winning margin. The other Democrats opposed Mukasey, citing his refusal to issue a blanket declaration that the interrogation technique known as waterboarding is a form of torture and therefore illegal. Schumer and Feinstein said they were swayed by Mukasey’s assurances that he would enforce any anti-waterboarding law that Congress passed. Schumer, who had originally proposed Mukasey to the White House, called him far better than anyone could expect from this administration.

Mukasey, a 66-year-old retired federal judge who presided over several high-profile terrorism trials, had seemed headed for easy confirmation until he was asked for his views on waterboarding. Democrats also became uneasy when he said he believed that a president was allowed to ignore laws passed by Congress that clashed with his constitutional duty to protect national security. But Mukasey won bipartisan praise for his vows to stress professionalism and the rule of law in a department that has been widely accused of being partisan and politicized. President Bush had pushed vigorously for Mukasey’s approval, suggesting that a delay would hurt the war on terrorism. Judge Mukasey has clearly demonstrated that he will be an exceptional attorney general at this critical time, said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.

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