As David noted yesterday, Senate Dems will have a chance to block Michael Mukasey’s nomination on Tuesday when the Judiciary Committee puts him to a vote. Whether or not they will do so remains a big if, given that it will require a no vote from each of the 10 Democrats on the committee and, as yet, only four have signaled that they will oppose his nomination. As it stands, New York Senator Chuck Schumer appears to be waffling. An early advocate of Mukasey, he said yesterday that “no nominee from this administration will agree with us on things like torture and wiretapping. The best we can expect is somebody who will depoliticize the Justice Department and put rule of law first.” Later today, Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy is expected to announce whether he will support Mukasey’s nomination.
As the Los Angeles Times points out today, even if the Dems on judiciary stand firm on Mukasey, the president could attempt to install his AG pick in a recess appointment—one that will remain in effect until the close of his presidency—over Congress’ upcoming holiday break. In that case, the Times notes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could try to out maneuver the president, “by keeping some lawmakers in Washington over the break to ensure that the chamber was always in session.”
Depending on the outcome of Tuesday’s vote, the Dems could find themselves (again) in a showdown with the president, who came out swinging yesterday in defense of his nominee. Playing the Dems-won’t keep-you-safe card, the president said that “on too many issues, Congress is behaving as if America is not at war” and that blocking Mukasey “would guarantee that America would have no attorney general during this time of war.” The latter is a bit of a strange comment, one that doesn’t display terribly much confidence in Peter D. Keisler, the acting attorney general, a founding member of the Federalist Society (the conservative lawyers group), and an ideological soulmate of the administration.