Friday, May 18, 2007

The U.S. Senate will take a “no-confidence” vote in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales next week, Democrats said yesterday, as calls for Mr. Gonzales to resign intensified among lawmakers in his own party.

“It seems the only person who has confidence in the attorney general is President Bush,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, who announced the measure and will sponsor it along with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat.

“The president long ago should have asked the attorney general to step down,” he said.

The no-confidence vote will be premised on a charge that Mr. Gonzales has sacrificed the Justice Department’s loyalty to the law by making it a political arm of the Bush administration, as demonstrated by the firing of eight federal prosecutors last year.

However, some Republican senators who have called on Mr. Gonzales to resign said they would not vote for Mr. Schumer’s no-confidence measure.

“If that were brought to the floor, I think Dr. Coburn would bring a vote to the floor calling for a vote of no confidence in Congress’ ability to balance the budget,” said John Hart, spokesman for Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican.

Mr. Coburn told Mr. Gonzales in a public hearing last month that the attorney general should resign, but Mr. Hart said the senator thinks Mr. Schumer’s no-confidence measure is “a silly partisan stunt.”

“It serves no other purpose other than to raise money for Democratic candidates,” said Mr. Hunt, referring to Mr. Schumer’s role as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, his party’s chief fundraising arm.

But Mr. Schumer said the no-confidence vote, which would have no binding or legal authority, would draw support from at least 60 senators. That would require nine Republican votes if all 51 Democrats and the two Democratic-leaning Independents vote for the measure.

Another Republican senator, Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, called on Mr. Gonzales yesterday to resign, bringing the total number to five. Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican, called for Mr. Gonzales’ resignation on Wednesday.

Another Republican, Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, told the Associated Press that Mr. Gonzales “ought to think” about resigning.

Sen. Arlen Specter, Pennsylvania Republican, said that “when we finish our investigation, we may have the conclusion of the tenure of the attorney general.”

Mr. Specter, the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has repeatedly criticized Mr. Gonzales but has said President Bush must decide whether the attorney general stays or goes.

“I think when our investigation is concluded, it’ll be clear even to the attorney general and the president that we’re looking at a dysfunctional department which is vital to the national welfare,” Mr. Specter said.

Meanwhile, a testimony date has been set for Mr. Gonzales’ former Justice Department liaison to the White House, Monica Goodling.

Ms. Goodling will be compelled to testify May 23 before the House Judiciary Committee, after a U.S. District Court judge last week ordered her to testify under an immunity deal.

“She has no recourse other than to testify,” said Ray Shepherd, the former chief counsel of the senate permanent subcommittee on investigations.

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