Say good morning to your new attorney general.
While many of us slept, the U.S. Senate stayed up late Thursday night to confirm Michael Mukasey, the president's pick to succeed Alberto Gonzales as the nation's top law enforcement officer. Democrats Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein made it possible for the waterboarding equivocator to clear the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, and Democrats Evan Bayh, Thomas Carper, Mary Landrieu and Ben Nelson padded Mukasey's margins on the Senate floor Thursday night.
The final vote was 53-40. It was the lowest level of Senate support for an attorney general nominee in more than 50 years, and the Washington Post says it "reflected an effort by Democrats to register their displeasure with Bush administration policies on torture and the boundaries of presidential power."
It's nice to "register displeasure," but members of the U.S. Senate actually have the power to do something more than that. If Democrats had held together against Mukasey, he wouldn't have been confirmed. And even with the defections of the Mukasey Six, they could have filibustered the nomination into oblivion: They had 40 "no" votes on the floor last night, plus four more in the hands of Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, way more than the number they needed to prevent Mukasey's nomination from coming to a floor vote, if they so desired.
They clearly didn't. So what now? The Senate can try to pass legislation outlawing waterboarding, but there's no reason to believe that George W. Bush would ever allow such a thing to become law. The Senate can invite Mukasey back to discuss the issue further, but there's no reason to believe that he'll be any more forthcoming in the future than he has been in the past. Bush and Mukasey got exactly what they wanted from the Senate last night. At 11:04 p.m., the time for extracting anything in exchange officially expired.