WASHINGTON – Attorney General-designate Michael Mukasey is headed for swift approval with scant objections, the powerful Democrat who will chair his confirmation hearings said Tuesday.
"I would expect him to be confirmed," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters after meeting with the former federal judge.
"I like Judge Mukasey," Leahy added. "I want him to succeed."
That's high praise from one of the Bush administration's most ardent Senate critics. But it's not an accident that President Bush nominated someone admired by majority Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Another White House foe, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., suggested Mukasey to replace Alberto Gonzales, the embattled attorney general who resigned in August after eight months of accusations of mismanagement. Even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said that Mukasey faces few, if any, obstacles to confirmation. But Reid has not yet scheduled a vote by the full Senate, his aides said.
Leahy told reporters that during private meetings and an exchange of letters, Mukasey has provided acceptable answers to key questions, such as whether he would operate the Justice Department independent of the White House. Gonzales was accused of being "the president's lawyer" and allowing his deputies to make some hiring decisions based on political affiliation, a violation of law.
Also on the agenda for the hearings that commence Wednesday are pointed questions, mostly from Democrats, about the administration's legal justification for an eavesdropping program and whether Mukasey would allow a prosecution of any contempt of Congress citations against Bush administration officials who refused to comply with their subpoenas.