The Senate has approved the nomination of former judge Michael Mukasey as the next attorney general following several hours of sometimes impassioned debate. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) even called President Bush's tenure in the White House "a dark chapter" in American history.
The vote was 53-40, with only seven Democrats - Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Evan Bayh (Ind.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Tom Carper (Del.) and Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) - voting for his confirmation.
All four Democratic presidential candidates - Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.), Barack Obama (Ill.), Joe Biden (Del.) and Christopher Dodd (Conn.) - missed the vote, as did Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz..), who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination in 2008.
Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) also did not vote.
Democrats opposed Mukasey's nomination because he refused to classify "waterboarding," an interrogation technique under which a detainee is put through a simulated drowning, as torture when questioned about it during the confirmation process.
Mukasey said he could not do so, since he had not been briefed on classified interrogation programs. In addition, Mukasey did not want to jeopardize the legal status of any government agents who may be using waterboarding while questioning detainees.
Reid, who voted against Mukasey's nomination, said Mukasey could have easily answered the question on waterboarding, rather than ducking it.
“This is not a difficult or complex legal question. It does not require high-level security briefings," Reid said on the Senate floor just moments before the vote. “So this is not a new debate, nor an unsettled question. Judge Mukasey doesn’t need a classified briefing from the Bush White House to answer this question."