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Lieberman, Schumer Will Introduce Mukasey

Former U.S. District Court judge and attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey's Wednesday confirmation hearing is expected to be one of the most bipartisan nominations of the entire Bush administration. Democrats are already signaling that confirmation is likely.

The current plan calls for Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), the top Republican on the panel, to meet Mukasey beforehand in the Capitol and walk him into the committee room together for the 10 a.m. hearing.

There, before the cameras, Mukasey is going to be introduced to the committee by a pair of senators who have played leading roles in recent national Democratic campaigns: Joe Lieberman (Conn.), the 2000 vice-presidential nominee who won re-election to the Senate as an independent last year, and Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee helped toss Republicans out of power.

Leahy told Capitol Briefing the atmospherics surrounding the Mukasey confirmation were "tripartisan".

"I expect him to be confirmed," Leahy said after a roughly 40-minute meeting with Mukasey today, adding, "He will be light years better than his predecessor."

That was the latest gibe from Leahy at former Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, who resigned last month after a tumultuous year in which he was plagued by accusations of overly politicizing Justice Department.

This makes the choice of introductory remarks all the more intriguing. Lieberman, a classmate of Mukasey's at Yale Law, has drawn fire from anti-war liberal activists for his continued support of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war as well as anti-terror policies that were promoted by the Justice Department under Gonzales. Schumer, who helped promote Mukasey's potential nomination in early September, has played a leading role in exposing the controversies regarding a 2004 dispute over re-authorizing the terrorist surveillance program and the firings of U.S. attorneys last year. As a member of the Judiciary Committee, he played a key role in Gonzales's ouster.

Just as interesting is the issue of who won't be at the hearing -- the frontrunners for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. Neither Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) nor former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R-N.Y.) will be on hand to introduce Bronx native to the panel, defusing what might have potentially been a point of partisan tension.

Tradition dictates that both home-state senators give opening remarks to the committee when a key nomination is being considered, regardless of party or ideology. In January 2001, just two months after her late husband defeated John Ashcroft in a brutal Senate race, then-Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) gave introductory remarks to the Judiciary Committee's nomination hearing for Ashcroft as attorney general. And in 2005, Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) introduced Gonzales to the committee.

But Clinton is instead tending to her other senatorial duties, chairing an Environment and Public Works subcommittee hearing on cleaning up Superfund sites, leaving Schumer to represent the Empire State.

And Giuliani could have appeared on Mukasey's behalf because the two are very close friends, beginning when they worked together in the early 1970s as assistant federal prosecutors in the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan. Past major nominees have had non-senator friends introduce them, with former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman giving her support to Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2006. But committee aides and the ex-mayor's aides said the issue never came up, perhaps with all sides aware that the former mayor's presence would add layer of partisan spectacle and detract the focus from Mukasey.

With Leahy declaring he expected no "bombshells" from the day or two of hearings -- and with no overly politicized atmosphere from the pomp and circumstance of the confirmation process -- Mukasey is looking increasingly like to secure his confirmation before the end of October.

By Paul Kane  |  October 16, 2007; 3:04 PM ET
Categories:  Hearing Watch  
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