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Specter: Gonzales may quit this week

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 21, 2007


WASHINGTON - The top Republican on the Senate committee investigating Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Sunday he believes Gonzales could step down before a no-confidence vote sought this week by Senate Democrats.

Gonzales failed to draw a public statement of support from Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell. Asked whether Gonzales effectively can lead the Justice Department, McConnell said "that's for the president to decide." The senator suggested there may be several resolutions introduced to dilute a no-confidence vote.

"In the Senate, nobody gets a clear shot, " said McConnell, R-Ky.

Yet Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he believed a "sizable number" of GOP lawmakers would join Democrats in expressing their lack of confidence in the attorney general.

Five Republicans have urged Gonzales to resign over his firing of federal prosecutors, while several other Republicans have expressed criticism of his actions.

"Votes of no confidence are very rare, " Specter said. "Historically, that is something which Attorney General Gonzales would like to avoid. I think that if and when he sees that coming, he would prefer to avoid that kind of a historical black mark."

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said Sunday that Gonzales would not be affected by a potential vote of no confidence.

Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California said they will seek a vote on a nonbinding resolution as early as this week to express what senators of both parties have said for weeks: that Gonzales has become too weakened to run the department.

Specter appeared on CBS's Face the Nation, and McConnell spoke on ABC's This Week.