The Senate Judiciary Committee sent Michael Mukasey's nomination for attorney general to the floor Tuesday, all but ensuring his confirmation following a bitter controversy over the interrogation of terrorist suspects.
The 11-8 vote came after two key Democrats accepted Mukasey's assurance that he would enforce any law Congress enacted against the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding.
The White House called for a swift confirmation vote, which is expected by the end of next week.
"Judge Mukasey has clearly demonstrated that he will be an exceptional attorney general at this critical time," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.
Though Mukasey is expected to easily win confirmation by the full Senate, Democrats and some Republicans were far from satisfied with his answers on torture, presidential signing statements and executive power.
Mukasey's assurances on torture won over Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Charles Schumer.
But Schumer, who suggested Mukasey to the White House in the first place, said the nominee's statements against waterboarding and for de-politicizing the Justice Department are the best deal Democrats could hope for.
"If we block Judge Mukasey's nomination and then learn in six months that waterboarding has continued unabated, that victory will seem much less valuable," he wrote in an op-ed in Tuesday's editions of The New York Times.
Feinstein (CA), said her vote for Mukasey's confirmation came down, in part, to practicality. If Mukasey's nomination was killed, she said, Bush would install an acting attorney general not subject to Senate confirmation and make recess appointments to fill nearly a dozen other empty jobs at the top of Justice.
Many Democrats came out in opposition to Mukasey after he refused to say that so-called waterboarding is tantamount to torture and thus illegal under domestic and international law.
Mukasey rankled Democrats during his confirmation hearing by saying he was not familiar with the waterboarding technique and could not say whether it was torture.
From NPR reports and The Associated Press