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Schumer, Feinstein to Introduce No-Confidence Motion on Gonzales

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Dianne Feinstein (Calif.) plan to introduce a no-confidence motion next week on embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, citing what they view as his abysmal handling of the U.S. attorneys scandal.

“It is clear that the time has come for the attorney general to step down,” Schumer declared in a Thursday afternoon news conference.

The possibility of a no-confidence vote was first reported by Roll Call on April 24, but Democrats held off on publicly announcing their intentions until now.

The vote would be nonbinding, but it would force Republicans into the awkward position of defending Gonzales, of whom they have been critical, on the record.

Schumer pointed to dramatic testimony Tuesday by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey and a story in today’s Washington Post — which reported that 26 prosecutors rather than eight were listed for possible ouster — as being the final straws.

On Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) joined a handful of other GOP Senators in calling for Gonzales’ resignation. GOP Sen. John Sununu (N.H.) has said Gonzales should resign, as has House Republican Conference Chairman Adam Putnam (Fla.). Sen. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) has said Gonzales’ resignation would be helpful.

And Judiciary ranking member Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) predicted at a committee hearing Thursday that Gonzales might not outlast the debacle.

Schumer said that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) had signed off on the vote, which Democrats seemed confident would gain the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture.

The New York Democrat, who has been leading the U.S. attorneys probe, said that although he had not polled GOP Senators, they privately have expressed to him dismay about Comey’s testimony.

“I think it’s going to be very surprising if we don’t get 60 votes,” Schumer said.

One conservative Judiciary Committee member, Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), said he would not support the resolution.

“I have confidence in Al Gonzales,” Cornyn said on Thursday afternoon.

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