Support for Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as attorney general is eroding, as Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized his refusal to declare a controversial interrogation method, called “waterboarding,” illegal, USA Today reports. Mukasey needs 10 votes from the 19-member committee to send his nomination to the full Senate. The committee votes Tuesday. The Senate initially received Mukasey warmly. The nomination veered off track when senators pressed him on waterboarding, an interrogation method that simulates drowning. Mukasey said repeatedly that U.S. law forbids torture without regard to whether it might lead to good intelligence. He refused to call waterboarding illegal. “No doubt the confirmation is at risk at this moment because he has not answered the question categorically,” said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA).
With Mukasey’s nomination in the balance, the Justice Department is being run by a number of temporary appointees. Acting Attorney General is Peter Keisler, former head of the department’s civil division. Acting Deputy Attorney General is Craig Morford, a former U.S. Attorney in Tennessee. The Office of Justice Programs, which gives out crime-fighting grants and manages statistics and research programs, is headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Cybele Daley. Daley, who formerly worked at the U.S. Marshals Service and the Justice Department’s legislative affairs office, is married to Jim Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police’s Legislative Advocacy Center.