Senate Confirms Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General
The Senate voted 60 to 36 to confirm Alberto Gonzales as attorney general Thursday, but only a handful of Democrats backed him after days of often strident debate over the administration’s torture policies for terrorism suspects. Gonzales, like Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now assumes one of the government’s most prominent posts with President Bush’s strong endorsement, but also trailed by accusations related to the administration’s war and terrorism policies. With only six Democrats voting aye — the smallest level of minority-party support in decades — the Senate action suggested that tensions between the two parties rival those of the Vietnam war and Watergate eras.
We needed this vote to establish that? Still, 60 votes is a fillibuster-proof supermajority.
Not since 1925, when the Senate twice rejected attorney general nominee Charles B. Warren, has a nominee received as few minority-party votes as Gonzales did, according to Senate historians. Four years ago an evenly divided Senate voted 58-42 to confirm John D. Ashcroft, with eight Democrats joining all 50 Republicans in backing the outspoken and often controversial former senator. Most attorneys general have been confirmed easily, sometimes unanimously. Aside from Ashcroft, the closest votes in recent decades involved Edwin Meese III (R), confirmed 63-31 in 1985, and Griffin B. Bell (D), confirmed 75-21 in 1977.
The nature of partisan bickering has simply changed so much as to make comparisons with the distant past meaningless for such things. There used to be such things as a “honeymoon” for a newly elected or reelected president.
The strategic mindset of the Democrats here is just mindboggling. They’ve just been handed a third straight defeat in the national electorate. It’s not without coincidence that Gonzalez’ margin exceeded Ashcroft’s despite fewer Democrats voting for him.
All 55 Republican senators voted for Gonzales except Conrad Burns (Mont.), who was absent. The six Democrats who voted for him were Mary Landrieu (La.), Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.), Ben Nelson (Neb.), Bill Nelson (Fla.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Kenneth Salazar (Colo.). All but Lieberman are from states that Bush carried in November.
Hardly coincidental, methinks. And Lieberman is up for re-election in two years in a partisan swing state.
Three Democrats — Max Baucus (Mont.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Daniel Inouye (Hawaii) — did not vote. The remaining 35 voted no, as did Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.).
One suspects all three would have voted for Gonzales had they gone on the record. Bush carried the first two in both 2000 and 2004 and came close to picking off Hawaii this go-round.