On Monday night (June 10), Senate Republicans blocked Democratic efforts to stage a no-confidence vote against embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. The vote, which was supported by 53 senators (seven short of the necessary 60 to invoke cloture), followed months of high-profile controversy surrounding the firing of eight U.S. attorneys in late 2006. Specifically, Gonzales has been accused of presiding over a Justice Department which fired the attorneys for political rather than performance-related reasons, and providing inconsistent and incomplete statements to Congress regarding the issue.
Senators from both political parties have criticized and even called for Gonzales’ resignation over the matter. Many of these same senators, such as Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), and John Sununu (R-N.H.), followed up these statements by voting to allow the no-confidence vote to take place. Some senators who had made statements critical of Gonzales and even called for his resignation, however, voted against allowing the no-confidence motion to move forward:
- Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.): “I believe that the best way to put this behind us is your (Gonzales') resignation.”
- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): Called resignation “the best thing Gonzales could do.”
- Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.): “When you (Gonzales) have to spend more time up here on Capitol Hill instead of running the Justice Department, maybe you ought to think about stepping down.”
- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.): “There are some problems that he (Gonzales) just hasn't handled well, and it might just be best if he came to a conclusion that the department is better served if he's not there.”
- Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio): Explained that if he was president, he “would have asked Alberto Gonzales to resign as attorney general.”
Voinovich defended the contradiction following the vote, stating that while he had concerns about Gonzales, the measure “does nothing to rectify the current problem or ensure it doesn’t happen again.” Specter agreed, calling the vote “political chicanery,” but still voted yes because his answer to the question of whether he had confidence in Gonzales, was "a resounding no.” Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), a harsh critic of Gonzales and the sponsor of the resolution, argued the measure was successful despite its defeat, stating "when a majority of the Senate votes no confidence in a cabinet officer, it says a lot."
Citizen and staff editors on the Congresspedia project have been closely following the U.S. attorney firings controversy on a comprehensive article (and several sub-articles) on the subject, and will continue to do so as events transpire. I urge you to check them out, and improve them with your own edits!