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Waterboarding Puts Mukasey's Nomination in Peril

Before the Senate can vote to confirm Michael Mukasey, he needs just one Democrat to join the GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee and support him. But Democrats are concerned about his answers on waterboarding, enforcement of subpoenas and the president's powers.

So far, four of the committee's 10 Democrats say they won't vote for Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general.

The situation leaves Mukasey's nomination in a fair amount of trouble. The former federal judge might not be able to even count on the support of Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer (NY), who was an early support of Mukasey. After initially urging his Democratic colleagues to back Mukasey's nomination, Schumer might end up joining them in opposition.

The nominee is also struggling to maintain Republican support. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter says he is not sure whether he will vote in favor of Mukasey's nomination. And Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina says he will likely support the nomination, but is urging Mukasey to be more explicit in his opposition to waterboarding, a controversial interrogation technique that simulates drowning.

For now, the vote is set for Tuesday. If it is not delayed, Mukasey's nomination could be approved and move on to the full Senate, where he is likely to be confirmed. However, even if the committee votes down the nomination, it could still make it to the Senate floor with a negative recommendation or without one.

But once on the Senate floor, there's a chance Mukasey's nomination could be filibustered.

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David Welna
David Welna is NPR's national security correspondent.
Alex Cohen