Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey as the next Attorney General of the United States, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee today and will move to a vote before the entire United States Senate. Two Democrats joined the nine Republicans to yield an 11-8 vote. Observers believe that Mukasey will easily succeed in the Senate vote.

The nomination of Mukasey by George W. Bush had originally drawn broad support. Nonetheless, Mukasey triggered a political row, during pre-confirmation questioning, when he refused to state that waterboarding amounted to illegal torture. In the end, he was able secure the votes of the two Democrats after assuring them that, if Congress passed legislation that made waterboarding illegal, he would in fact work to enforce such a law.

Patrick Leahy, Senator from Vermont, who opposed Mukasey said: “Some have sought to find comfort in Judge Mukasey’s personal assurance that he would enforce a future, a new law against waterboarding if this Congress were to pass one. Unsaid, of course, is the fact that any such prohibition would have to be enacted over the veto of the president.”

I don’t believe a leaderless department is in the best interests of the American people

“Now, I wish I could support Judge Mukasey’s nomination,” Senator Leahy further said. “I like Michael Mukasey. We have many things in common in our past careers. I certainly don’t question his intellectual ability or his independence.”

The two Democrats that voted for Mukasey were Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Senator Dianne Feinstein of California. Schumer has been reported as suggesting Mukasey as Attorney General to White House during the search for a nominee.

Schumer defended his vote, saying: “If six months from now … the same policies continued, the victory in defeating Mukasey would seem hollow. No one questions that Judge Mukasey would do much to remove the stench of politics from the Justice Department. I believe we should give him that chance.”

Feinstein said that her vote for Mukasey was because, otherwise, Bush could have an acting Attorney General, who would not need confirmation, until the end of his term. In explaing this, she said: “I don’t believe a leaderless department is in the best interests of the American people or of the department itself. [Bush] appointed this man because he believes he is mainstream.”

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts did not agree with Mukasey’s view on waterboarding. “Waterboarding is already illegal under United States law. It’s illegal under the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit outrages upon personal dignity, including cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said of the committee vote: “Judge Mukasey has clearly demonstrated that he will be an exceptional attorney general at this critical time.”

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