Mukasey survives committee vote

Judge Michael Mukasey on Tuesday cleared the biggest hurdle that stood between him and the post of attorney general when the Senate Judiciary Committee approved his nomination 11-8.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) and Charles Schumer (N.Y.) were the only Democrats who voted to support Mukasey. The nomination is now headed to the Senate floor, where Mukasey is expected to pass easily.

“Judge Mukasey is highly qualified and supported by a bipartisan majority of the Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “He was deemed a consensus choice when he was nominated, and he still is today. Unfortunately, the nomination of this good man ran into the partisanship that affects all too many of those who volunteer for public service.”

Democrats raised concerns about Mukasey after he, in their view, did not strongly enough state that waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, constitutes torture.

The Bush administration countered that Mukasey has not been briefed on classified programs and therefore it would not be prudent for him to declare possible parts of them illegal.

“When the United States cannot state clearly that waterboarding is torture and illegal and will not be tolerated, what does that mean for other governments?” Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said in remarks prior to the vote. “And what comfort does that provide the world’s most repressive regimes?”