Today, the Senate will hold its first no-confidence vote in history. The non-binding resolution introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) would express the “sense of the Senate” that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales “no longer holds the confidence of the American people.” The White House and its conservative allies have written off the vote, with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow stating that it will have “no effect” on President Bush’s confidence in Gonzales. “[T]here’s an attempt to pull this thing like a piece of taffy, seeing if there’s any political advantage in it,” said Snow on Fox News Sunday. “There’s not.” Snow’s comments undermine the seriousness of the no-confidence vote and the bipartisan dissatisfaction with Gonzales. As Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) recently noted, this vote is a “historical black mark.”
- Attorney General Gonzales has been at the top of the steady politicization of the Justice Department. His involvement in the prosecutor purge demonstrates his willingness to abuse his position and exploit the agency, whose mission is to “ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.” Yesterday, Snow tried to claim, “Nobody found anything untoward.” But throughout his tenure serving Bush, Gonzales has not only fired qualified U.S. attorneys, but driven away respected civil rights officials and replaced them with political appointees, pushed laws that discriminate against minorities, and overseen the erosion of Americans’ civil liberties. As The New York Times recently wrote, Gonzales “has never stopped being consigliere to Mr. Bush’s imperial presidency.” According to a recent poll, 63 percent of the American public doesn’t believe Gonzales is telling the truth about the U.S. attorney dismissals, and a majority believe Gonzales should resign.
- Senators from across the ideological spectrum have lost confidence in Gonzales’ ability to lead the Justice Department. “The bottom line is the only person who thinks the attorney general should remain attorney general is the president,” notes Schumer. “He’s gotten virtually no support from even Republicans in the Senate, just a handful have supported him, six have called for him to step down, a dozen more have said very negative things about him.” But unfortunately, many of these Senate conservatives who have used criticism of Gonzales as a public relations stunt are now unwilling to oppose the president and support the no-confidence vote. On April 19, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) told Gonzales that “the best way to put this behind us is your resignation.” But he has now said that he will oppose today’s no-confidence vote and will instead introduce an unrelated pet amendment, “expressing ‘no confidence’ in Congress’ ability to cut wasteful spending or balance the budget.” The five other conservative senators are still “unwilling to tip their hands about how they will vote,” despite previously publicly calling on Gonzales to resign.
- Gonzales’ tenure at Justice has been marked by eroding civil rights and liberties. The Washington Post reports today that at “least one-third of the immigration judges appointed by the Justice Department since 2004 have had Republican connections or have been administration insiders, and half lacked experience in immigration law.” As the Justice Department spokesman admits, “immigration judges are considered civil service employees who may not be chosen based on political factors.” In the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, just 42 percent of the lawyers hired since 2003 have strong civil rights backgrounds, compared to 77 percent in 2001-2002. These political appointees have aggressively gone after so-called voter fraud, which is, as The New York Times notes, the Bush administration’s “code for suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people.” In 2004, high-ranking Justice political appointees overruled the Department’s attorneys and analysts who “recommended rejecting” Georgia’s voter ID law “because it was likely to discriminate against black voters.” More recently, the Bush adminstration has attempted to cover-up the partisan firings by accusing several of the ousted U.S. attorneys of failing to aggressively pursue charges of voter fraud, even though there has been very little evidence of any such fraud.