Mukasey's Prospects Uncertain as Reid Criticizes His Stand on Torture
Making confirmation prospects even more uncertain, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) today denounced Attorney General nominee Michael B. Mukasey's refusal to comment on the legality of harsh CIA interrogation techniques while Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) announced his opposition to the nomination.
Reid said he was withholding his official position on the nomination, but he strongly signaled that he would vote against Mukasey if his nomination is sent to the floor by the Judiciary Committee. Reid voiced displeasure with a four-page letter the retired federal judge sent to the committee's 10 Democrats this week, in which he said he does not know whether a type of simulated drowning called waterboarding constitutes illegal torture under U.S. law.
"I don't think it's much of a secret how I feel about this whole thing. ... I think people know how I feel," Reid said. After beginning to walk away, Reid pivoted back to take another shot at Mukasey's legal rationale: "If there were ever any indication why people dislike lawyers, read the letter he wrote to us. It was so lawyer-like no one knew what he was saying."
In the letter Mukasey called waterboarding "repugnant" but could not determine whether it was torture and therefore unconstitutional. The judge noted that he has not been given clearance to review all the interrogation programs practiced by the military and CIA officers of terrorism suspects.
The Judiciary Committee, scheduled to meet next week on the attorney general nomination, is divided 10 to 9 along party lines. Because all the Republican members appear inclined to support Mukasey to succeed Alberto Gonzales, Mukasey needs the support of just one Democrat on the committeee. Four of the Judiciary Committee Democrats are now opposed to Mukasey.
Another key Democrat, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, said that he would announce his position at a press conference in his home state of Vermont tomorrow. But he continued to criticize the positions of Mukasey, after predicting just two and a half weeks ago that the nomination would sail through.
Kennedy, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, delivered a stinging floor speech at midday. "He has the credentials and many of the capabilities to be a strong Attorney General," Kennedy said. "But talent and experience are not all that's required for the job. The Attorney General of the United States must also be a person with an unbending commitment to justice, fairness, and equality, who will stand up for America's laws and values, even when the White House tries to steer the Department in the other direction."
As a sign of the growing momentum against Mukasey, Kennedy's speech came about 19 hours after he told reporters Wednesday evening he would not announce his position until Monday, after he spent the weekend reviewing hundreds of pages of testimony and written answers to follow-up questions. Kennedy had missed the Oct. 17-18 hearings on Mukasey while he was home in Boston recovering from artery surgery.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who urged President Bush to nominate Mukasey, refused to answer any questions about the nominee at a press conference held by Democratic leaders. Reid had to jump in at least twice to deflect questions away from Schumer.
Schumer is one of several Democrats on the committee whose votes will be critical on Tuesday, when the nomination is slated to be voted on by the panel. Another is Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who recently broke ranks with Democrats on the committee to support a controversial Bush nominee to the federal appellate court.
If the nomination makes it to the Senate floor, it would appear to have a razor-thin margin for confirmation if all 49 Republicans back Mukasey. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) told Capitol Briefing today that he still supports Mukasey, his old Yale Law school classmate. "You've got to judge the overall record of the person," he said.
That would be the 50 votes needed, along with Vice President Cheney's tie-breaking vote, to win a floor battle. Many other moderate-to-conservative Democrats are voicing deep doubts about the nomination. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who has been a steadfast supporter of almost every Bush nominee, has scheduled a meeting with Mukasey for early next week.
Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) said he has "grave concerns" about Mukasey's waterboarding views. Sens. Robert Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) both raised questions about whether Mukasey's waterboarding answers were signs that he would be too deferential to the White House, and thus little improvement over Gonzales. "I have my doubts so far from what I've read that he can discharge that responsibility," Casey said.
Posted by: D. L. Foster | November 1, 2007 6:26 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: M. Stratas | November 1, 2007 6:33 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: willig6 | November 1, 2007 6:59 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: poggy | November 1, 2007 9:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: erict | November 1, 2007 9:25 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Steve Boyington | November 1, 2007 9:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Anonymous | November 1, 2007 10:51 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: PollM | November 2, 2007 10:20 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: woody anderson | November 2, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: wideyed1 | November 2, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Stonecreek | November 2, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: doubtingdon | November 2, 2007 4:43 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patrick Huss | November 2, 2007 6:29 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: massimo | November 5, 2007 12:30 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lee | November 5, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Philip Dow (Napa, CA) | November 5, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lawrence | November 6, 2007 8:55 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lawrence | November 6, 2007 8:56 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lawrence | November 6, 2007 8:57 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dave klaboe, nyc | November 6, 2007 9:10 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: dave klaboe, nyc | November 6, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Lawrence | November 6, 2007 9:19 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: sinderdj | November 6, 2007 8:46 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: aloha | November 6, 2007 11:40 PM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.