WASHINGTON — Judge Michael Mukasey's nomination for attorney general ran into trouble Thursday when two top Senate Democrats said their votes hinge on whether he will say on the record that an interrogation technique that simulates drowning is torture.
"It's fair to say my vote would depend on him answering that question," Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) told reporters late Thursday.
"This to me is the seminal issue," said Assistant Majority Leader Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who is on Leahy's panel. Asked if his vote depends on whether Mukasey equates waterboarding with torture, Durbin answered: "It does."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said his support could be in doubt over the same issue.
"I think if he doesn't change his direction in that regard, he could have at least one concern, and that's me," Reid told reporters. Leahy has refused to set a date for a vote on Mukasey's nomination until he clarifies his answer to the torture question.