WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed retired judge Michael Mukasey as attorney general Thursday night to replace Alberto Gonzales, who was forced from office in a scandal over his handling of the Justice Department.President Bush thanked the Senate, even though the margin had been whittled down from nearly unanimous by a sharp debate over Mukasey’s refusal to say whether the waterboarding interrogation technique is torture.
“He will be an outstanding attorney general,” Bush said in a statement from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Republicans were solidly behind Bush’ nominee. Democrats said their votes were not so much for Mukasey as they were for restoring a leader to a Justice Department left adrift after Gonzales’ resignation in September.
In the end, Mukasey was confirmed as the nation’s 81st attorney general by a 53-40 vote. Six Democrats and one independent joined Republicans in sealing his confirmation.
The choice, according to one of those Democrats, was essentially between “whether to confirm Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general or whether to leave the Department of Justice without a real leader for the next 14 months,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.