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President Bush’s attorney general nominee passed a Senate committee with key support from two Jewish Democrats. Tuesday’s 11-8 vote of the Senate Judiciary Committee sends the nomination of Michael Mukasey, a retired federal judge and an Orthodox Jew, to the full Senate.

Democrats had backed Mukasey until he refused to define as torture waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning. The technique reportedly is being used by U.S. interrogators despite a body of precedent that has established it as illegal. Critical to his approval in the majority Democrat committee was the backing of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer, who introduced his fellow New Yorker Mukasey to the committee, wrote Tuesday in an op-ed in The New York Times that he was troubled by Mukasey’s view on torture. But he said it was more important to re-establish credibility and professionalism at a Justice Department left in shambles by Alberto Gonzales, the scandal-plagued Bush intimate who quit in September. Also voting for Mukasey was Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the committee’s only Republican Jew. Jewish Democrats voting against included Sens. Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin and Benjamin Cardin of Maryland.

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