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Alberto Gonzales to Face a Historic Vote of No-Confidence

June 10, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

The Senate has grilled Alberto Gonzales in hearings and today they will have a chance to channel their displeasure into votes. This afternoon, the Senate will vote on a bill to determine if, in fact, 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.

The U.S. Senate has never voted on a no-confidence bill before.

The quoted text above is the entirety of S.J.Res.14, which will be the subject of a 5:30 vote. Because of the Senate rules, the vote will actually be “a vote on the motion to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to S. J. Res. 14.” Sixty votes are needed to approve the motion.

Since the bill is non-binding — it is a symbolic vote that carries no weight of law — the vote on the cloture motion to proceed will essentially serve the same purpose as an actual vote on the bill. An “aye” vote will, for all intents and purposes, be an expression of no-confidence in Gonzales, and a “nay” vote will be a vote against the no-confidence bill.

In a series of congressional hearings, Alberto Gonzales has been accused of complicity in a White House plot to fire nine U.S. attorneys who failed to prosecute cases for the political advantage of Republicans and the Bush administration.

The bill may not get 60 votes. However, simply holding this vote could be politically disastrous for the Bush administration, Gonzales, and Republican senators who stay the party line and vote against it. Senator Arlen Specter (R, PA) had predicted that Gonzales would resign before this rare and damaging vote takes place:

>"I do not think, when all is said and done, that Attorney General Gonzales will want to go down in history with a black mark on his name to have been the subject of a vote of no confidence."

The bill has 30 sponsors, all of them Democrats. Several Republicans have called for Gonzales to resign, but it appears that the will likely conceded to party politics and vote against the bill. For example, Tom Coburn (R, OK), who, at a senate hearing, told Gonzales that he should resign, plans to oppose the bill and has even offered an amendment that would turn it back on the Democratically-controlled Congress:

>In the face of his fellow Senators pushing to express a lack of confidence in George W. Bush’s boy, Gonzales, Coburn essentially says “Oh yeah, well I’m going to express no confidence in you.”
>Coburn’s amendment to S.J. Res. 14 gives a laundry list of 19 items, intended to demonstrate wasteful spending and a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of the Congress.

Because the vote will be on the cloture motion, Coburn’s amendment will not actually be considered. If the cloture motion were to pass, the amendment would then be offered during debate of the bill. We’ll have to wait and see. Will any Republican senators deflect from their party and express their lack of confidence in Alberto Gonzales? Will Gonzales offer his resignation before the vote takes place this evening?

While the bill purports to express not only the sense of the Senate, but also that of the American people, a Washington Post-ABC News Poll went straight to the public for their opinion of the matter. On June 4th, they asked 1,205 adults:

>There have been congressional hearings recently about how and why the Department of Justice fired nine chief federal prosecutors. Do you approve or disapprove of the way U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has handled this issue?

Twenty five percent answered that they approve, 52 percent disapproved, and 23 percent had no opinion. When asked:

>Given this issue do you think Gonzales should (lose his job) as attorney general, or (remain in his position)?

Forty three percent answered that he should lose his job, 35 percent said he should remain in his position, and 22 percent had no opinion.

UPDATE: Arlen Specter (R, PA) has stated that he plans to vote for the no-confidence bill. Will other Republicans who have been critical of Gonzales in the past follow his lead?

UPDATE 2: The no-confidence resolution was rejected by a vote of 53-38. You can see how your senator voted here. Remember, this was a cloture vote, so 60 “aye” votes were needed for it to pass.

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