Political theater

Will Republicans allow a no-confidence vote on Albert Gonzales?

By Tim Grieve

Published June 11, 2007 4:55PM (EDT)

The resolution Democrats are trying to get to the floor of the Senate today is uncomplicated, unequivocal and, as a factual matter, correct: "It is the sense of the Senate," it says, "that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people."

That Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate really can't be disputed. Democrats are universally unhappy with him, seven Republicans have called for his resignation or firing, and a handful more have made it clear that they wouldn't be unhappy to see him go. Add those numbers together, and you get more than 60 senators -- which is to say, enough to carry the day on a cloture motion and bring the matter to the Senate floor, where a simple majority vote would convey the body's lack of confidence in the attorney general.

As for the confidence of the public? Gonzales has lost that, too. A poll taken in April -- before we learned the sordid details about Gonzales' visit to John Ashcroft's hospital room -- showed that, of the people who had an opinion one way or another, those who thought Gonzales should resign outnumbered those who thought he should stay by more than a 10-point margin.

So how will Republicans respond to the no-confidence resolution when it comes up for a procedural vote this afternoon? We've assumed that they -- or at least enough of them -- would fall in line behind the president and beat back the Democrats' cloture motion. But as Roll Call reports today, a dispute is "brewing" among Republican senators over how to proceed. The details, coming by way of Think Progress: Some Republicans want the party's leaders to allow the Democrats to move forward on the Gonzales vote but then fire back immediately with a resolution arguing that New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer somehow has a conflict of interest in pushing an investigation of Gonzales while also running the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "My sense is, we're going to let them get cloture, and we're going to talk about it," a Republican Senate source tells Roll Call. "We have more dirt to throw at them than they have at us."

All of which reminds us of what the president himself said the other day about the no-confidence vote on Gonzales: "I . . . frankly view what's taking place in Washington today as pure political theater. And it is this kind of political theater that has caused the American people to lose confidence in how Washington operates."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Chuck Schumer D-n.y.