Mukasey Nomination Sent to Full Senate

The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; 1:59 AM

WASHINGTON -- Michael Mukasey's nomination as the nation's next attorney general was sent to the full Senate on Tuesday as a vehicle for the broader, and more bitter, debate over the legality of the Bush administration's interrogation techniques for terrorism suspects.

The retired federal judge was expected to win confirmation easily by the end of next week, but not without significant floor discussion inspired by his refusal to say that waterboarding amounts to illegal torture.

Within hours of the Judiciary Committee's 11-8 endorsement of the nomination Tuesday, Mukasey's name was invoked in the same sentence as "torture" in a campaign appeal on behalf of Democrats.

"If he can't say no to torture, we say no to Mukasey," read a letter sent out by Friends for Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader who had announced earlier in the day he would vote against confirmation.

Mukasey's comments on torture rankled senators of both parties, but the nominee averted a rebellion by promising to enforce any law Congress passes outlawing the practice _ or quit the post if President Bush ignores his legal advice.

That was good enough for all nine Republicans and two Democrats on the 19-member Senate Judiciary Committee who voted to send the nomination to the full Senate for confirmation.

"We appreciate the vote of senators on the Judiciary Committee to forward the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to the full Senate," White House press secretary Dana Perino said. "Judge Mukasey has clearly demonstrated that he will be an exceptional attorney general at this critical time."

Officials in both parties predicted Tuesday that Mukasey would win more than the 60 votes required to head off a filibuster. But before any more votes are cast on the matter, a full-blown floor debate was expected about waterboarding, a brutal interrogation method that creates the sensation of drowning and which is banned by domestic law and international treaties.

Those policies don't govern the CIA's use of the practice, however, and the Bush administration has sidestepped questions about whether it has allowed the agency's employees to use it against terror detainees.

At Senate confirmation hearings last month, Mukasey frustrated senators of both parties by repeatedly refusing to say whether he considers waterboarding a form of torture, as claimed by an unlikely coalition of military officials, doctors and humans rights groups.

Mukasey's assurances won enough support to survive a vote by the committee that looked uncertain only a few days earlier. Ranking Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania said the burden for outlawing the practice rests with Congress anyway.

But some on the panel called Mukasey's appeal disingenuous.

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