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Gonzales vote fails to advance

Published June 12, 2007


WASHINGTON - Attorney General Alberto Gonzales survived a climactic no-confidence vote in the Senate on Monday and, with the support of the White House, appears to have weathered a monthslong storm of criticism and investigation that once imperiled his tenure at the Justice Department.

Most Republicans, even those who had been critical of Gonzales, closed ranks, and Democrats fell well short of winning the votes necessary to move forward with a resolution declaring that the Senate and the "American people" had lost confidence in him. Senate Democrats' attempt to bring up the resolution received 53 of the 60 votes needed to end unlimited debate.

Democrats vowed to continue their investigation into whether Gonzales, in tandem with the White House, had politicized hiring decisions and various investigations at the Justice Department in ways that would boost Republicans. There were signs that Democrats were on the verge of taking that investigation to a new level, possibly by issuing subpoenas to the White House for documents and testimony of such figures as political operative Karl Rove.

But the 53-38 vote suggests that the Democrats do not have the political might to force the issue.

Gonzales already had won a vote of confidence from President Bush weeks ago. "There is only one vote that matters, and he's got it, " said Charles Black, a Republican political consultant with ties to the White House.

Short of impeachment, Congress has no authority to oust a Cabinet member.

Observing that his term expires with Bush's in 18 months, Gonzales said in Miami Monday that he was planning on "sprinting to the finish line" with a full agenda of initiatives. "The department is not going to stumble, nor crawl to the finish line, " Gonzales said.

How effective Gonzales can be for the balance of the Bush presidency is far from clear, however. With Democrats holding the purse strings, it is unlikely that Congress will be backing major new Justice Department initiatives.

Fast Facts:

How they voted

"Yes" was a vote to proceed with the resolution and "no" was a vote to block it.

Florida: Mel Martinez, R, no; Bill Nelson, D, yes.

Republicans voting yes: John Sununu of New Hampshire; Gordon Smith of Oregon; Chuck Hagel of Nebraska; Norm Coleman of Minnesota; Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania; Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.

[Last modified June 12, 2007, 02:11:02]

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