The Bush administration won't oppose rescinding U.S. attorney hiring changes slipped into the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill passed last year, but first the legislation has to reach his desk, and certain Senate Republicans are blocking the way.
On Wednesday's Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Alison Stewart talks with George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley about yet another crisis the Bush administration has created in government. Turley had some choice words about the provision that enabled Bush to bypass oversight and our elected officials who let them get away with it:
The AP's report:
The Bush administration, bowing to an uproar over its firing of eight federal prosecutors, won't oppose legislation changing the rules for replacing them, senators said Thursday.
"The administration would not object to the bill," said Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., referring to legislation to remove the administration's power to fill the vacancies without Senate confirmation. He spoke with reporters after a meeting involving Judiciary Committee senators and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Schumer, Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the panel's senior Republican, said Gonzales also agreed to let five of his top aides involved in the firings talk with the committee.
The committee was prepared to authorize subpoenas for the officials.
Six of the eight ousted prosecutors told House and Senate committees on Tuesday they were dismissed without explanation. Some said the dismissals followed calls from members of Congress concerning sensitive political corruption investigations.
Others said they feared the Justice Department would retaliate against them for talking with reporters and giving lawmakers information about their dismissals.
The meeting with Gonzales occurred a few hours after Leahy's committee agreed to postpone a vote on subpoenas that would have compelled five of Gonzales' aides who were involved in the firings to testify about the details, publicly and under oath.
Tuesday's eight hours of hearings by the Senate panel and the House Judiciary Committee turned into a display of mudslinging. The fired prosecutors insisted they had stellar records and didn't deserve the Justice Department saying most of them were replaced for poor performance.
At the House hearing, a Justice Department official recited before TV cameras the shortcomings of each of the ousted U.S. attorneys.
Gonzales came under harsh criticism during Thursday's Senate committee meeting, even from senators of his own party. Specter suggested Gonzales might suffer a similar professional fate as the fired prosecutors.
"One day there will be a new attorney general, maybe sooner rather than later," Specter said.
In private, Specter offered Gonzales some stiff advice: Acknowledge that the matter is serious.
"And that he take the next step and realize that there is a significant blemish on the records of these individuals," Specter told reporters, referring to the prosecutors. Further, "That he acknowledge that the problem arose because he failed to state the reasons why these people were asked to resign."
Gonzales refused to comment as he exited the private meeting.
Democrats felt the administration had taken advantage of a change in the Patriot Act that took effect a year ago, which lets the attorney general appoint federal prosecutors indefinitely, without Senate confirmation.
Gonzales has denied that was his intent and said he will submit the names of all appointees to the Senate approval process.
Nonetheless, he told senators at Thursday's meeting that the administration would not try to block legislation designed to reverse the change in the law. Sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the bill would impose a 120-day deadline on attorneys general for the nomination and Senate confirmation of appointees to any of the nation's 94 federal prosecutors' posts. After 120 days, appointment authority would go to federal district courts.
Previously, the administration said 120 was an unreasonably short time.
Apparently, it's not as done a deal as the AP is reporting.
The Washington Post reports:
Under the previous system, the local federal district court would appoint a temporary replacement until a permanent candidate was named and confirmed by the Senate.
Democrats and some Republicans said they were concerned the Justice Department was attempting to use the new provision to appoint political cronies without Senate oversight and that the firings were a means to that end. Gonzales and other Justice officials have argued that the old replacement system was inefficient and unconstitutional.
Democrats have attempted to attach to several pieces of legislation language to remove the provision, but they have been blocked repeatedly by Kyl. Senate aides cautioned that Gonzales's assertion that the administration will stand down did not guarantee passage, as Senate Republicans could still block the measure.
But after their meeting, Leahy said Gonzales assured him Bush will sign the bill if it reaches his desk. "My understanding is the president would," Leahy said.
For the next two years of the Bush administration and the upcoming elections, we can expect all Republicans to fight tooth-and-nail against everything and anything that they think could be perceived as favoring Democrats. Republicans have been successful at getting everything that they've gone after by overreaching and never backing down. By wearing down all opposition, which hasn't been all that much when it's been from the Democrats, who play by Queensbury rules.
Democrats have got to push for the rescission of the entire Patriot Act, and every last anti-populist piece of legislation that Bush and the GOP has gotten passed these last years. Canada has rescinded their version of the Patriot Act, enacted in the days after 9/11/01, but our abominable assault on civil rights and our Constitution remains. Democrats enable Bush and Republicans to remain in power when they allow the fear-mongering that has paralyzed Americans' good sense. Democrats have got to learn 21st century street-fighting, how to stir more than one pot at a time, and start putting in more than 3 days a week working.