Senate Weighs 'No Confidence' in Gonzales

As of this afternoon, it remained unclear how many Senate Republicans were expected to join Democrats in voting this evening to express "no confidence" in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

The Senate is preparing a procedural vote on a nonbinding resolution expressing that "it is the sense of the Senate that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people."

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters in Philadelphia today that he would vote for the resolution.

"If you ask Arlen Specter, do I have confidence in Attorney General Gonzales, the answer is a resounding no," Specter said. "I'm going to vote that I have no confidence in Attorney General Gonzales."

Political Ploy?

On Sunday, the man leading the anti-Gonzales charge, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said, "We shouldn't have to be taking the vote. About the only person in the United States of America who thinks Alberto Gonzales should stay as attorney general is George Bush."

Schumer's office said it expected all Senate Democrats to vote in favor of the resolution, which first must receive the support of 60 senators to proceed to a formal vote.

But even among the Republicans who have called for Gonzales' resignation, there is little excitement for this resolution, which is regarded as a political stunt to put vulnerable Republicans up for re-election in 2008 — such as Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman and New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu, both of whom have called for Gonzales to step aside — in a tough spot.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., has called for Gonzales to resign, but he is voting "no" on Schumer's resolution and also introducing a resolution to express no confidence that the Congress can balance the budget.

Coleman and Sununu, along with Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and John McCain, R-Ariz., all of whom have called for Gonzales to go, have not yet said how they will vote on the resolution.

McCain is campaigning in California and will likely miss the vote.

Bush Defends Attorney General

Today in Bulgaria, President Bush said that the Senate "can try to have their votes of no confidence, but it's not going to … make the determination who serves in my government."

"This process has been drug (sic) out a long time, which says to me it's political," Bush said. "There's no wrongdoing. … [They] haven't said, here's — 'You've done something wrong, Attorney General Gonzales.' And therefore, I ascribe this lengthy series of news stories and hearings as political. And I'll make the determination if I think he's effective, or not, not those who are using an opportunity to make a political statement on a meaningless resolution."

The Senate Historian's Office cannot recall the Senate ever before voting on a "no-confidence" resolution.

The situation most similar to today's events occurred in 1886, when the Senate adopted a "condemnation" resolution against President Cleveland's attorney general, A.H. Garland, because he had refused to provide the Senate with documents pertaining to the removal of a federal prosecutor in Alabama.

"Old Hickory" himself, President Jackson, was censured in 1834 for refusing to turn over documents related to his veto of legislation pertaining to the Bank of the United States.

His fellow Democrats, after taking control of the Senate, later expunged that censure from the record.