- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected today to approve the nomination of Alberto R. Gonzales for attorney general over the strident objections of some Democrats on the panel.

If President Bush’s chief White House counsel is approved by the committee on a largely party-line vote — a possibility Republicans are preparing for — his nomination will become the first major test for Democrats who must decide by month’s end if they want to continue partisan filibusters against President Bush’s nominees.

At the very least, Minority Leader Harry Reid said, Democrats want extensive debate on Mr. Gonzales’ nomination, especially since he helped shape the administration’s policies for handling enemy combatants. Many Democrats say those policies gave a green light for U.S. soldiers to use torture.

“I think that there will be and there should be some extended debate on that,” the Nevada Democrat said yesterday. “And by ‘extended debate,’ I’m not talking about a filibuster. I’m talking about someone who is going to be the chief law-enforcement officer of this country. I think we need to talk about it.”

Mr. Gonzales has support from at least one Senate Democrat, Ken Salazar of Colorado, and several others have made encouraging remarks about him in the past. One Democrat who has expressed confidence in Mr. Gonzales’ ultimate confirmation in the past is Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who last weekend said he is not leaning against supporting him.

To overcome a filibuster, Republicans must keep all 55 members in line and get at least five Democrats to cross party lines.

Among those who say they plan to oppose Mr. Gonzales in committee today is Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat. Mr. Kennedy said that only nine of 700 presidential Cabinet nominees in history have been rejected by the Senate, even as he plans to oppose two of Mr. Bush’s coices.

“Mr. Gonzales’ case is a rare case in which a nominee may have been directly responsible for policies and resulting practices that have been counterproductive, contrary to international standards and practices, harmful to our troops’ safety, legally erroneous, and plainly inconsistent with the rule of law and the basic values which this administration prides itself on defending,” Mr. Kennedy said.

Mr. Gonzales’ nomination was endorsed yesterday by the National Council of La Raza, the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the country. Mr. Gonzales previously served on the board of directors of one of La Raza’s oldest affiliates, the Houston-based Association for the Advancement of Mexican Americans.

“Not only is Judge Gonzales a compelling American success story, it is also clear that few candidates for this post have been as well qualified,” said Janet Murguia, NCLR president and CEO. “He has served as Texas’ secretary of state, as a member of the Texas Supreme Court, and as White House counsel, and has been deeply involved in his community throughout his life.”

While most debate surrounding Mr. Gonzales’ nomination dealt with the so-called “torture memos,” NCLR said that “Judge Gonzales agreed to review the administration’s positions on sentencing reform and articulated some reservations about the practice of ‘deputizing’ local police to enforce immigration laws.”

“While we have had our policy differences with the Bush administration, we are confident that Judge Gonzales is someone who will serve his country with distinction and who will also be accessible and responsive to the concerns of the Hispanic community,” Ms. Murguia said.

The Human Rights First organization, meanwhile, announced its opposition to Mr. Gonzales.

“Mr. Gonzales is a talented and experienced lawyer. He has an inspiring personal history,” said Michael Posner, executive director of HRF. “But Mr. Gonzales helped to open the door to abuses that have undermined discipline in the military, put American fighting men and women at greater risk, and denied the United States the moral high ground.”

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