WASHINGTON — Senators Schumer and Feinstein say they will vote for an attorney general-nominee, Judge Michael Mukasey, which likely gives him enough support to pass the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Their decision came shortly after the chairman of the committee, Senator Leahy, Democrat Vermont, announced he would vote against Judge Mukasey, a former federal judge.
"This is an extremely difficult decision," Mr. Schumer said in a statement, adding that Judge Mukasey "is not my ideal choice."
In announcing her support for Judge Mukasey, Ms. Feinstein, Democrat of California, said "first and foremost, Michael Mukasey is not Alberto Gonzales," referring to the former attorney general who resigned in September after months of questions about his honesty.
Including Mr. Leahy, five of the Judiciary Committee's 10 Democrats had said they would vote against Judge Mukasey's confirmation after the nominee earlier this week refused to say that waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, is torture and therefore illegal.
But with nine Republicans on the panel, Mr. Schumer's and Ms. Feinstein's support for Judge Mukasey virtually guarantees that a majority of the committee will recommend his confirmation when it votes on it next Tuesday.
Leaders in both parties have said they expect Judge Mukasey to get at least 70 votes when the full, 100-member Senate votes on his confirmation. But the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, had said he would not bring it up for a vote without Judiciary Committee action first.
Mr. Schumer's announcement followed a private meeting yesterday with Judge Mukasey to discuss waterboarding.
"I deeply oppose it," Mr. Schumer said of waterboarding. "Unfortunately, this nominee, indeed any proposed by President Bush, will not agree with this. I am, however, confident that this nominee would enforce a law that bans waterboarding."
Mr. Schumer, who was Judge Mukasey's chief Democratic sponsor, said the retired judge told him that if Congress passes a law banning waterboarding "the president would have absolutely no legal authority to ignore such a law." Mr. Schumer said Judge Mukasey said he would enforce any congressional ban the controversial interrogation method.