Democrat Chris Dodd stepped out today as the first of the presidential hopefuls also serving in the US Senate to say he will vote against Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey.
Much of the nomination debate has focused on Mukasey's refusal to clarify whether he considers an interrogation technique known as waterboarding to be torture.
Dodd said while he is troubled by that, he is more concerned about Mukasey's suggestion during hearings last month that the president could disregard a constitutional federal law on national security grounds.
"I'm more distressed and concerned about that statement," Dodd told reporters in a conference call.
That upsets the separation of powers and would continue a troubling expansion of executive power, he said. "You've opened up Pandora's box incredibly," Dodd said. "I just find it as fundamental as it gets."
The Connecticut senator said he is stunned that a retired federal judge is making such statements that Dodd said a first-year law student should know is wrong.
Dodd said that he hopes the issue is raised in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate in Philadelphia and that he will pursue the issue in the Senate, but would not say he plans a filibuster to stop Mukasey's nomination.
Two top Democrats and a Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee have urged Mukasey to say explicitly what his position is on the lawfulness of waterboarding, which simulates drowning. The committee chairman has refused to schedule a vote until Mukasey responds.