WASHINGTON – Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales (search) is the wrong man to be the nation's top law enforcement official given his participation in crafting Bush administration policies during the war on terror, Democrats said Wednesday.
But Republicans still had enough votes to push the former White House counsel through the Senate Judiciary Committee and on to the full Senate for confirmation as attorney general.
The vote was ten to eight.
The committee met as President Bush urged lawmakers Wednesday to "promptly act and confirm Judge Al Gonzales. He'll be a great attorney general."
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., called Gonzales on Tuesday to tell him that he would voting against him.
Bush said that he chose Gonzales "because of his sound judgment and role in shaping in shaping the administrations policies in the war on terrorism," Leahy said. "Based on the glimpses of secret policy formulations and legal rationales that have come to light, I believe his judgments not to have been sound."
"His judgment is defective," added Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del.
Democrats complain that Gonzales was evasive with his answers to their questions about White House policies in the war on terror. They have used his nomination and that of secretary of state nominee Condoleezza Rice (search) to criticize the Iraq war and the treatment of foreign prisoners at Abu Ghraib (search) prison in Iraq, in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"The continuing effort to pin the blame for the torture scandal on a few bad apples among our soldiers while ignoring or even rewarding Mr. Gonzales and others responsible for the policy has sent the wrong message to our nation and the world," said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. "I cannot support a nominee who has done so much to harm America's basic interests and fundamental values."
Republicans said Gonzales shouldn't be the scapegoat for what happened to foreign prisoners.
"Most of these allegations have nothing to do with Judge Gonzales and in any event have been thoroughly discussed," said Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz.
Gonzales, who served as White House counsel during President Bush's first term, would replace John Ashcroft (search) if confirmed. He would be the nation's first Hispanic attorney general.
Even with Gonzales's passage through the committee, Democrats say they will require several hours of debate on the Senate floor before allowing a confirmation vote.
"I think that a man who gave the legal advice to the president to allow this to take place is someone that deserves to be talked about on the Senate floor," Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said Tuesday.
Gonzales has said he supported extending the expired federal assault weapons ban. He also told senators he wanted Congress to reauthorize the Patriot Act this year, despite complaints that it is too intrusive.