Justice nominee may get special two-month appointment

Federal Judge Mark Filip, nominee for deputy attorney general, may get a special two-month appointment so he can quickly get on the job while the Senate is on recess, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced Wednesday. At the confirmation hearing for Filip, 41, to replace former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, Leahy, joined by Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said an effort will be made for a special accommodation to get Filip to work because of the importance of the No. 2 position.

The Senate plans to be only in pro-forma sessions into late January to prevent President Bush from making recess appointments, so a full Senate confirmation vote on Filip is unlikely. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, agreed that a temporary appointment should be made but preferred an actual Senate confirmation if that could be worked out. Details of an appointment were not explained by Leahy who planned to meet privately with Specter to work out details presumably with the White House.

During the hearing, Filip weathered questions whether he viewed the harsh interrogation technique of waterboarding terrorist suspects as torture. Filip gave a response similar to that of Attorney General Mukasey during his confirmation hearing.

"Torture is prohibited by the Constitution," Filip said. "And the president is bound by the Constitution." Under questioning by Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who said waterboarding has long been branded as torture, Filip said, "I personally consider waterboarding repugnant" but noted Mukasey is reviewing the question.

"I can't get out front of him" since the review is underway, he added. But on the job and after review, he said, "If I had a different view, I would tell him."

Judiciary Committee members told Filip they view the department as lacking credibility and independence from the White House since the nearly yearlong probe of the firings of U.S. attorneys allegedly for partisan reasons. They have been perturbed over the lack of cooperation from the administration on several oversight investigations.

Filip tried to assure the committee he believed the oversight responsibilities of Congress are broad and that he would accommodate investigations as long as they do not jeopardize criminal prosecutions. The Justice Department has been criticized recently for not cooperating with Leahy and Specter's requests for information about the CIA destruction of interrogation tapes.

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