Monday, March 19, 2007

Senate Debate On Revoking Gonzales's Appointment Authority Begins

Not a moment too soon with the political firings emerging from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's office, the Senate will today begin debate on the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007, legislation that will reverse a provision slipped into the USA Patriot Act to give Gonzales unfettered power in selecting new U.S. Attorneys.

Without notice, the Bush administration inserted a provision into the Patriot Act reauthorization last year, changing the law so that Gonzales would be able to fill any vacancies for an indefinite period of time – thus completely avoiding the Senate confirmation process.

S.214, was proposed by Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and cosponsored by 14 Democrats and Republican Arlen Specter, and amends the federal judicial code to allow the Attorney General to appoint interim U.S. Attorneys for only 120 days. If after that time the President has not sent a nominee to the Senate and had that nominee confirmed, the authority to appoint an interim U.S. Attorney would fall to the district court.

Feinstein introduced the legislation, which was approved in the Judiciary Committee last month by a vote of 13-6, to restore the process in place before 2006.

Referring to the latest developments in the U.S. Attorneys scandal that show involvement by Karl Rove, Feinstein said that the latest revelation "provides one more indication that this was not a cursory move and instead it was a well-strategized, well-executed plan that was done with the knowledge of the Department of Justice and the White House."

"There is a clear remedy: return the law to what it was before the Justice Department slipped in the change to the Patriot Act reauthorization, and continue the on-going investigation of the matter," said Feinstein.

The legislation should receive a full Senate vote by the end of the week.

Update: A lot of people have written to ask which six Republican Senators wanted to take the legislation limiting Gonzales's "hiring authority" and kill it in the Judiciary Committee. No major surprises, but here they are:
  • Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
  • Jeff Sessions (R-AL)
  • Lindsey Graham (R-SC)
  • John Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Sam Brownback (R-KS)
  • Tom Coburn (R-OK)