No-Confidence Resolution


on Gonzales Is Scheduled





Published: June 9, 2007

WASHINGTON, June 8 — Senate Democrats said Friday that they intended to bring a no-confidence resolution against Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to a vote on Monday, a symbolic maneuver that could be their final effort to force his ouster.

Skip to next paragraph

Eduardo Verdugo/Associated Press

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, in Mexico on Friday.

Democrats privately acknowledged that the nonbinding measure appeared to have little chance of passage, largely because they are unlikely to marshal the 60 supporters they need to limit debate and bring the resolution itself to a vote.

The debate, Democrats said, will at least bring the discussion of Mr. Gonzales’s performance to the Senate floor, after months of Congressional investigation into last year’s dismissals of federal prosecutors.

“Just about everyone in America, with the exception of the president, believes Alberto Gonzales should not remain attorney general,” Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said Friday. “We are going to use everything we can to persuade him.”

Mr. Gonzales has shown no sign that he is likely to step aside in response to an outpouring of criticism of his performance from lawmakers, including some Republicans. He has spoken of his plans to serve until the end of President Bush’s second term and Mr. Bush himself repeatedly has expressed confidence in Mr. Gonzales.

The White House and Republican leaders called the no-confidence resolution a political stunt, and they made a point of noting that the measure is being pushed by Mr. Schumer, a member of the Judiciary Committee who is also chairman of the Senate Democrats’ re-election campaign.

“If Senator Schumer had a conscience he would end his political vaudeville act and let the Senate get back to work on important legislation,” said Tony Fratto, a White House spokesman. “These games are a discredit to the Senate.”

Mr. Gonzales, for his part, has tried to appear uninterested in the matter, as he continued his extensive travels this week, spending Friday in Mexico for a summit meeting of American and Mexican law enforcement officials. He is scheduled to be in Miami on Monday, speaking at a conference on nuclear terrorism.

“That will be up to Congress to decide what they want to spend their time working on,” Mr. Gonzales said earlier this week, when asked about the measure. “I’m spending my time focused on what’s important to the American people.”

Under Senate rules, the Democrats need the agreement of 60 members to invoke cloture, limiting debate and bringing the resolution to a vote. But few Republicans appeared ready to abandon Mr. Gonzales.

Even Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who told Mr. Gonzales during his Senate appearance that he should resign, intends to oppose the resolution, saying that the Senate has no standing to express “no confidence” in Mr. Gonzales.

“If we are going to express no confidence in something, Congress is certainly an institution that has lost the confidence of the American people,” John Hart, a spokesman for Mr. Coburn, said Friday.

Even if the measure fails, Democrats may be able to use the vote as a political weapon, pointing to those Republicans who rallied behind the president in his support of Mr. Gonzales, a tactic that Mr. Schumer hinted at Friday.

“There are obligations higher than just marching in political lockstep, and one of them is to do whatever you can to assure that rule of law is still regarded with some degree of care at the Justice Department,” he said, in urging his Republican colleagues to back the measure.

The no-confidence vote comes after five months of investigation and the disclosure of thousands of pages of internal Justice Department documents, which contradict the initial explanations by Mr. Gonzales and other administration officials about why the prosecutors were dismissed and what role the White House played in the process.

How the list of prosecutors was assembled remains a mystery. Another question is whether inappropriate political considerations — like a desire to block an investigation of Republicans or speed up an investigation of Democrats — played a role in any of the dismissals.

The investigations by the House and Senate are continuing. And the Justice Department inspector general and its ethics office are both also investigating the dismissal of the United States attorneys and accusations that Justice officials took improper political matters into consideration when hiring or promoting career prosecutors.

%d bloggers like this: