Key GOP Senator: Gonzales May Resign to Avoid Vote

He's been under attack for weeks, but according to a member of his own party, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales could see his fate sealed this week.

Appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation," Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, sounded an ominous note about Gonzales's future.

Referring to a no-confidence vote that Democrats are threatening to hold on Gonzales, Specter said, "I have a sense ... that before the vote is taken, that Attorney General Gonzales may step down."

Pressed as to why he believed Gonzales might resign, Specter said he believed the no-confidence vote could be "very substantial," and predicted that Gonzales would choose to remove himself rather than face such a prospect.

Specter, himself, did not call for Gonzales's resignation outright, but six Republican senators have already called for the attorney general to step down in the wake of the scandal over the firing of U.S. attorneys.

Adding to the drumbeat — revelations last week about a hospital visit Gonzales paid to former Attorney General John Ashcroft to try to gain approval for the administration's warantless wiretapping program.

President Bush remains steadfast in his support for Gonzales. White House spokesman Tony Fratto suggested that Congress needs a lesson in civics, since no-confidence votes are a feature of parliamentary systems, not the U.S. system of government.

And while Gonzales may have few outright defenders left on the Hill, it's not clear most Republicans want him to go.

"If the president wants to keep him in his job, I will work with him," Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., said on ABC's "This Week." Political power plays like no-confidence votes, he added, are what have given Congress a 29 percent approval rating in the polls.

Democrats say they're serious about holding the no-confidence vote, but it's not clear they will be able to make it happen. The Senate has a full plate this week, with the debate over immigration, and wrangling over the Iraq spending bill. In addition, Republican leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., indicated he'd be unlikely to let a simple no-confidence vote proceed.

"In the Senate, nobody gets a clear shot," he said.

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