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US Senate Confirms Michael Mukasey as Attorney General


The U.S. Senate has confirmed President Bush's nomination of retired federal judge Michael Mukasey to the post of attorney general. The Senate approved Mukasey by a vote of 53-40 during a late-night session Thursday. The vote came despite concern among some Democrats that the retired federal judge would not say whether the interrogation technique known as waterboarding amounts to torture. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

President Bush immediately welcomed Senate confirmation of Michael Mukasey.

In a written statement, Mr. Bush called Mukasey a man of strong character and integrity, with exceptional legal judgment. He said Mukasey will be an outstanding attorney general.

Mukasey succeeds Alberto Gonzales, who resigned amid criticism of his handling of a controversial wiretapping program and the firing of federal prosecutors.

Mukasey's confirmation came after an emotional debate over his refusal during Senate hearings to call the interrogation technique that simulates drowning 'torture'. Key Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, argued that was enough reason to oppose the nomination.

"In light of his responses in confirmation hearings, I cannot stand by him today," he said.

Thirty-nine Democrats voted against Mukasey. But six others joined Republicans in supporting him.

Senator Joe Leiberman, an independent from Connecticut, was also among those who supported Mukasey.

"I can't think of a nominee for Attorney General who has been more independent of the president nominating him than Michael Mukasey in a long, long time," he said.

Waterboarding has been condemned as torture by human rights groups. The U.S. military has banned the practice, but human rights groups say the Central Intelligence Agency has used it on terrorism suspects in recent years.

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