Senators cast votes on key Bush appointments

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(Host) Vermont’s two U.S. senators have taken different positions concerning the confirmation of Condoleezza Rice as the country’s new Secretary of State. The Senate confirmed Rice by a vote of 85 to 13.

For the first time in his 16-year Senate career, Jim Jeffords voted against confirming a cabinet appointee. Jeffords says he generally believes that a president has the right to select a leadership team but Jeffords says this case is different. Jeffords says he couldn’t support Rice because, as National Security Advisor, she was a chief spokesperson for the president’s policies to go to war in Iraq.

(Jeffords) “Especially with respect to the weapons of mass destruction. That was the one that I pressured on in all the meetings before the federal officials, and I found out that I was grossly misled. I believe that if you’re putting somebody in the position that that position puts you in, you must be trustworthy and not have been convinced to say false statements or whatever by the president or anybody else, that you have the integrity to always be square before the Congress.”

(Host) Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Leahy voted for Rice — even though he also expressed grave concerns about the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq:

(Leahy) “I am doing kind of a leap of faith and hoping that she will start repairing our very damaged relations with our allies. She’s assured me she will. We will see whether she does.”

(Host) In another key confirmation vote, Leahy said he couldn’t support the nomination of Alberto Gonzales as the country’s next Attorney General. The Senate Judiciary committee, voting along party lines, backed the Gonzales nomination by a vote of 10 to 8. All the Republicans on the panel voted for him — all the Democrats voted against him.

Leahy said he was greatly concerned about Gonzales’s role as White House counsel when he expanded techniques of interrogating terrorists to include acts of torture:

(Leahy) “I think that the fact that he was willing to acquiesce in a change in the history of our whole country on torture was more than I could accept. Even George Washington, when he captured British and Hessians, he said they have to be treated with dignity and respect. The torture memos that he acquiesced in are anything but that.”

(Host) The full Senate is expected to vote on the Gonzalez nomination next week.

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