The U.S Senate confirmed Michael Mukasey as attorney general.
Mukasey, an Orthodox Jew and retired federal judge from New York, was confirmed late Thursday 53-40. He is only the second Jewish attorney-general, and the first Orthodox Jew in the job. He is known for adjudicating sensitive terrorism cases and is a lifelong member of Kehillath Jeshurun on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Mukasey had at first been welcomed by Democrats as more straightforward and competent than Alberto Gonzales, the longtime associate of President Bush who quit in September dogged by scandal.
A number of Democrats soured on him, however, after he refused to define as torture waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning. The Bush administration has reportedly used the technique on detainees although the body of precedent has declared it illegal.
In the end, Mukasey won critical Democratic support from two Jewish Democrats, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Both senators were unsettled by his answers on waterboarding, but said they would back him because the Justice Department, in disarray, sorely needed competent leadership.