Senate approves Rice as secretary of state
The Gonzales nomination for attorney general moves to the Senate.
WASHINGTON -- The Senate confirmed President Bush's choice for secretary of state and advanced his nominee for attorney general Wednesday, but in the process, Democrats registered discontent with Bush's Iraq war policies to a degree that surprised even some of their party's leaders.
The Senate voted 85 to 13 to confirm Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, marking the most negative votes cast against a nominee for that post in 180 years. Meanwhile, all eight Democrats on the Judiciary Committee voted against Bush's appointment of Alberto Gonzales as attorney general.
Because the committee's 10 Republicans voted for Gonzales, his nomination will reach the full Senate, where leaders of both parties predicted he will be confirmed to succeed John Ashcroft. Still, some Republicans seemed surprised by the minority party's solidarity, and several Democrats acknowledged that a few weeks ago they wondered if they could muster even four committee votes against Gonzales.
Health and human services
During a quiet moment Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Mike Leavitt as secretary of health and human services, by voice vote. Leavitt is the outgoing Environmental Protection Agency chief and a former Utah governor. Wednesday marked the second straight day that Democratic senators used high-profile nominations not to defeat Bush's appointees -- which they lack the clout to do -- but to attack the administration's policies regarding the torture of terrorism suspects and the execution of the Iraqi war and transition. As in Tuesday's daylong debate on Rice's nomination, Wednesday's criticisms came from not only liberal Democrats but also more centrist or independent members who have backed the Bush administration on key issues.
For example, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., voted against Gonzales' confirmation even though he had voted in 2001 to confirm Ashcroft, a staunch conservative and irritant to many liberal groups. Feingold told his committee colleagues that Gonzales "too often has seen the law as an obstacle to be dodged or cleared away in furtherance of the president's policies."
Republicans defended Rice and Gonzales, sometimes a bit testily, and suggested Democrats were trying to score political points on sure-to-fail missions. At the Judiciary Committee meeting, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said, "You may not agree with Judge Gonzales, but my gosh, this man is an honorable, decent person who deserves to be confirmed." He said Gonzales "made it very clear that he knows the difference between being attorney general, where he represents all the people, and being White House counsel, where he's basically representing the president."