"Source: Orlando Sentinel 06/11/2007
WASHINGTON -- By his own admission, he might have misled the public in describing his role in firing eight U.S. attorneys.
A top aide likely violated civil-service laws by injecting politics into hiring career prosecutors at the Justice Department.
And his bedside manner leaves something to be desired.
But Attorney General Alberto Gonzales nonetheless is expected to survive today when the Senate takes up a no-confidence vote on his performance.
Now, the questions are where a Democratic-led investigation of Gonzales' two-year tenure at the department goes from here and whether it is losing steam.
"Purely a symbolic vote," White House press secretary Tony Snow said on Fox News Sunday. "What you've got here [is] a Senate that's had a great deal of difficulty delivering on any of its promises."
The vote marks a critical juncture in a congressional probe that has raised questions about whether the mission of the Justice Department has been politicized under Gonzales.
The investigation began with the testimony of a group of U.S. attorneys fired last year -- and evidence suggesting the White House and Justice Department conspired to replace them to affect public-corruption and voting cases that would benefit Republicans.
Some Republicans called for Gonzales to resign, but he has retained the support of President Bush, his political mentor from Texas.
Gonzales has sought to put himself above the fray, appearing to go about the daily business of the department and law enforcement. He is to be in Miami today, giving a speech at a conference on nuclear terrorism, and later in Mobile, Ala., addressing a child-protection task force.
The Republican leadership appears to be falling in line behind Gonzales.
As concerned as some in the GOP are about the job that he has done at the department, they are approaching today's vote more as an opportunity to make a statement about the Democratic leadership. Fresh from the collapse of immigration-reform legislation, the nonbinding no-confidence resolution shows how Democrats are failing to lead on issues of importance to Americans, they say.
Even some Republicans who have called for Gonzales to resign, including Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn, plan to vote against the measure.
"This vote is irrelevant," White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. "If I were them, I'd worry about the public's no-confidence vote in this Congress, which specializes in doing nothing and complaining about everything. The Senate should go back to work on serious business instead of playing these games."
Even a leader of the Democratic effort to oust Gonzales, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who a month ago said he thought there was a good chance the resolution would win the necessary 60 votes, was trying to lower expectations.
"If all senators who have actually lost confidence in Attorney General Gonzales voted their conscience, this vote would be unanimous," Schumer said. "However, the president will certainly exert pressure to support the attorney general, his longtime friend. We will soon see where people's loyalties lie." "