The Senate voted 53 to 40 late last night to confirm Michael Mukasey as attorney general. He succeeds Alberto Gonzales.

As NPR's David Welna reports, the issue of torture turned what had been expected to be an easy nomination process into an ordeal.

DAVID WELNA: Minority Leader Mitch McConnell complained before last night's vote that attorney general-designate Mukasey had gotten a raw deal.

Senator MITCH McCONNELL (Republican, Minority Leader): This shouldn't have taken nearly this long to process the Mukasey nomination. I'm glad that tonight, almost two months he was nominated, the waiting will finally end. And then he will soon get to work at the Justice Department.

WELNA: Mukasey lost support among Democrats for refusing to say whether a form of controlled drowning known as waterboarding was torture. But New York's Charles Schumer backed him saying he was the best nominee Democrats would get.

Senator CHARLES SCHUMER (Democrat, New York): There is still a chance with somebody who is regarded as thoughtful, independent and a lawyer, above all, that he may, he may - I can't say he will, I wish I could - find on his own that waterboarding and other coercive techniques are illegal. Certainly, more of a chance than with a caretaker.

WELNA: Majority Leader Harry Reid, though, opposed Mukasey.

Senator HARRY REID (Democrat, Nevada): He cannot stand up to the president on such question of profound importance and simplicity, with a clear, legal answer. How can we be sure that he would be more than just another mouthpiece for an administration that treasures secrecy and loyalty above all.

WELNA: Not one Republican opposed the nomination.

David Welna, NPR News.

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