Schumer and Feinstein to side with White House on Mukasey

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) announced Friday they would break ranks and side with Judiciary Committee Republicans in voting to send the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general to the Senate floor.

With nine Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, that would likely give more than enough support for Mukasey’s nomination to be sent to the floor, where the embattled nominee likely will have enough backing for confirmation. The panel meets Tuesday to consider the nomination.

I believe that Judge Mukasey is the best we will get and voting him down would only perpetuate acting and recess appointments, allowing the administration to avoid the transparency that confirmation hearings provide and diminish effective oversight by Congress,” Feinstein said in a statement issued less than two hours after Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) announced his opposition to the nomination.

Schumer was expected to announce his support for Mukasey later Friday, according to his office. He had been torn on the nomination after recommending Mukasey only to see the nomination lose significant Democratic support.

The nomination had been jeopardized after Mukasey lost support from five committee Democrats, members of the party’s leadership and all four senators who are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.

Leahy and other Democrats are opposing Mukasey, a former district court judge, because he has refused to state explicitly that waterboarding, or simulated drowning, constitutes torture. Mukasey said he had not been briefed on U.S. interrogation techniques.

Feinstein said that Congress should “explicitly ban” waterboarding. If it did so, she said she believed Mukasey would enforce the matter if confirmed as attorney general.

Feinstein took a similar tack in August when she sided with all nine Judiciary Committee Republicans to send the controversial appeals court nominee Leslie Southwick to the Senate floor. He has later confirmed over strong Democratic objections.