Leahy certainly didn’t appear satisfied. In his announcement of opposition on Friday afternoon, the Judiciary chairman said he was troubled by both Mukasey’s answers to the committee on the waterboarding practice and his stand on executive privilege.
“I am eager to restore strong leadership and independence to the Department of Justice,” Leahy said. “I like Michael Mukasey. I wish that I could support his nomination. But I cannot.
“America needs to be certain and confident of the bedrock principle — deeply embedded in our laws and our values — that no one, not even the president, is above the law,” Leahy said.
While Leahy, Schumer and Feinstein having now stated their positions, there are three Democrats on the panel who have yet to publicly declare their plans. Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), one of those five, said in a statement Friday that Mukasey would be an improvement over Gonzales, but he still has concerns.
“He may be the best nominee we can get from this administration in this respect. But I am concerned about his views on executive power, and I am weighing whether his answers to questions in that area adequately demonstrate a commitment to the rule of law,” Feingold said.
No matter, the Judiciary Committee vote Tuesday will be a nail-biter, and Senators already are bracing for another test if and when it comes to the floor later this month. Even Senate Democrats have suggested that Mukasey likely would win the backing of all 49 Republicans and enough Democrats to win confirmation, but nothing is guaranteed.
With that in mind, the chamber’s most conservative Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.), is preparing for playing a role in a prospective floor debate. Nelson will meet with Mukasey on Monday afternoon.