Fri, Jan 21, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Senate committee delays vote on new attorney general

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , WASHINGTON

The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed a vote on Alberto Gonzales' nomination for attorney general on Wednesday after Demo-crats charged that Gonzales had evaded their questions about the Bush administration's policies on the treatment of prisoners captured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senator Edward Kennedy, who sought the delay, said at a committee meeting that Gonzales' written responses to questions about the administration's policies on torture had been "arrogant" and evasive. He pressed for Gonzales to produce notes and records that might shed light on the positions he took as White House counsel -- in particular, a 2002 memo on the limits of torture.

Senator Arlen Specter, a Republican who is chairman of the committee, said that at first glance he was satisfied with Gonzales' answers, calling them "an expansive response on relatively short notice." But he agreed to put off the vote for a week and to review the voluminous material to determine whether fuller answers were needed.

He said afterward that he did not think Gonzales' confirmation was in any jeopardy. Delaying a vote on a nominee to give senators time to explore all issues "is really the tradition of the committee when there are controversial matters," Specter said, referring to a long-standing committee rule that allowed the Democrats to hold over the nominee for a week. The judiciary committee is now likely to vote on Gonzales on Jan. 26.

With several Democrats rethinking their position on Gonzales' nomination, Specter acknowledged that the nominee could face a number of "no" votes on the committee before the full Senate takes up his nomination. Spector said he wanted to see Gonzales avoid a party-line vote in order to strengthen his position as attorney general.

In written responses to the committee on Tuesday, Gonzales laid out the administration's positions on the treatment of prisoners in the campaign against terrorism. But on a number of key issues, he said he could not remember key details or declined to provide them because they involved classified information.

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