Leahy: GOP Senators have danced "to the tune of a power-hungry White House"
Here are some excerpts from Leahy's powerful speech:
"In a few minutes the Senate will have an opportunity to begin restoring accountability and checks and balances to our government -- the government that belongs to all Americans. We should pass the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act. We have to close the loophole that's been exploited by the Department of Justice and the White House, a loophole that led to the mass firings of United States Attorneys.Senator Leahy has always been someone that Americans can depend on in his Judiciary Committee role and look for him to play a big part in exposing Bush administration corruption in the weeks and months ahead.
"When we roll back this excessive authority given the Attorney General by the PATRIOT Act reauthorization, we can restore -- at least take a step toward restoring -- the independence of our federal law enforcement system. We will be acting to reverse one more incident of overstepping by an earlier rubberstamp Congress, which all too often was all too willing to dance to the tune of a power-hungry White House.
"The Attorney General -- and I'll agree with the Attorney General on this -- he is right that 'mistakes were made.' Mistakes were made alright, Mr. President. It was a mistake to conduct this mass firing to send the message to our United States Attorneys that they had better act like 'loyal Bushies' -- their words, the administration's words -- rather than act as objective law enforcement officers.
"Mistakes were made? Absolutely. It was a mistake to malign the reputations of these officials by contending that the firings were prompted by their badly performing their law enforcement responsibilities. And let me tell you right now, Mr. President, it was a mistake to mislead the Senate Judiciary Committee in hearings and Senators in phone calls and meetings about the firings.
"It was a mistake to give the Attorney General the unlimited authority to fill these critical posts with his selections, or the selections of the White House, without the advice and consent of the United States Senate. But most of all, it was a mistake to inject crassly partisan objections into the selection, evaluation, firing and replacement of the top federal law enforcement officers in our country."
Said Leahy in closing his speech before yesterday's vote: "Let us restore the situation where our federal prosecutors, whether we have a Democratic president or a Republican president, will serve law. The law! And not a political purpose."
You can listen to Leahy's entire floor speech below.