Mukasey AG nomination gets hesitant support from Senate Democrats

[JURIST] Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have generally reacted favorably to President Bush's Monday nomination [JURIST report] of former federal judge Michael B. Mukasey [WH factsheet; PBWT profile] as the US Attorney General, showing support for Bush's bi-partisan efforts at nominating an independent mind for the nation's top law enforcement officer and paving the way for a relatively smooth confirmation. Many US senators stopped short of announcing their support of Mukasey, but several top Democrats expressed the need for a quick confirmation and signaled a readiness to compromise with GOP lawmakers in order to clean up the scandal-ridden US Department of Justice [official website]. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) [official website] applauded Bush's bi-partisan efforts [press release], noting that "Judge Mukasey has strong professional credentials and a reputation for independence...and knows how to say no to the President when he oversteps the Constitution." While Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] initially threatened to hold up Mukasey's nomination until the Bush administration hands over key information about its terrorist surveillance program [JURIST news archive], Leahy later said that he looks forward to meeting with Mukasey and gathering information for confirmation hearings, adding that "cooperation from the White House will be essential" [press release]. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) [official website] echoed Leahy's comments, adding that holding up Mukasey's confirmation would be a "mistake" when the "White House has taken a step forward" with a bi-partisan nomination. Mukasey has been regarded as strict on national security matters, but ruled [PDF text] in March 2003 that US citizen Jose Padilla [JURIST news archive] had to be allowed to meet with counsel despite being classified as an "enemy combatant" [JURIST news archive], prompting Senate Judiciary Committee member Russ Feingold (D-WI) [official website] to express interest [press release] in Mukasey's "views on executive power and the need to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans while fighting al Qaeda and its affiliates aggressively."

Leading Republicans have begun urging the Senate to confirm Mukasey quickly. Ranking Senate Judiciary Committee member Arlen Specter (R-PA) [official website] welcomed Mukasey's nomination, noting that "President Bush has made a very conscience and deliberate effort to choose someone who would not be controversial." Specter expressed hope that Mukasey's nomination "will not get bogged down" [press release] in requests for information from the White House, including requests about the terrorist surveillance program and the firing of eight US Attorneys [JURIST news archive], which eventually precipitated the resignation of former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [JURIST report]. Mukasey emerged as a leading candidate for the nomination after Democrats balked [JURIST report] at the prospect of Theodore Olsen [DOJ profile], saying Olsen was overly partisan and threatening to invoke procedural barriers to his confirmation. AP has more.

 

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