Mukasey Questioned on Torture

Lawmakers yesterday pressed Michael Mukasey, the nominee for attorney general, on whether waterboarding is a form of torture. Mukasey rankled Senate Democrats when he suggested that the Bush Administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program could be constitutional.

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LUKE BURBANK, host:

Now, we've got Rachel Martin with the rest of the news.

RACHEL MARTIN:

Hey, good morning, everyone.

So, is waterboarding torture?

It was a question attorney general nominee Michael Mukasey refused to address head-on. It was the liveliest bit of day two of Senate confirmation hearings that will determine whether President Bush's choice for U.S. attorney general will get the job.

During testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mukasey suggested the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program could be constitutional. That riled some Democratic lawmakers. The tone of the hearings intensified when Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island asked Mukasey whether waterboarding, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning, is constitutional. Here's Mukasey's response.

Mr. MICHAEL MUKASEY (Retired Judge; United States Attorney General Nominee): I don't know what's involved in the technique. If waterboarding is torture, torture is not constitutional.

Senator SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (Democrat, Rhode Island): If waterboarding is constitutional is a massive hedge.

MARTIN: The retired New York judge is considered likely to be confirmed by the Senate although a final vote could be delayed until Mukasey gives written answers to some questions posed by the committee.

After pledging to overturn a presidential veto on a bill to expand children's health care, when it came down to it, Democratic lawmakers just didn't have the votes. Yesterday, the House upheld President Bush's veto of a bill to broaden the S-CHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program.

Dems have been pushing the bill as a way to give health insurance to kids from families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough for private insurance. Democrats waged a multimillion-dollar ad campaign and lobbied hard for the bill but still came up 13 votes short of the two-thirds needed to pass. Democrats say they'll make some minor changes and send it back to the president's desk next month.

And it's the end of an era - for the New York Yankees anyway. Yankees manager Joe Torre is calling it quits. He led the Yanks from 1996 to 2007 and brought home four World Series championships, but the Yankees didn't make it to the series this year. If they had, Torre would have been guaranteed $8 million for two years. Instead, the Yankees offered him five. It would have kept Torre as the highest paid manager in the majors, but it's still a pay cut, and that doesn't really fly in the big leagues.

A spokesman for the Yankees says they're actively looking for Torre's replacement; the main criteria: someone who can take the Yankees to the championship series next year.

In playoff action, the Red Sox staved off elimination with a 7-1 victory over the Indians. The series continues tomorrow night in Boston. The Indians lead that series 3 to 2.

That's the news, and it's always online at npr.org.

MARTIN: Luke and Alison, your turn.

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