What: All Issues : Making Government Work for Everyone, Not Just the Rich or Powerful : Curbing Presidential Power : S J Res 14. (Confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) Motion to begin debating a "no confidence" resolution regarding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales/On the motion (2007 senate Roll Call 207)
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S J Res 14. (Confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales) Motion to begin debating a "no confidence" resolution regarding Attorney General Alberto Gonzales/On the motion
senate Roll Call 207     Jun 11, 2007
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For some days, Democrats had sought to bring up for debate on the Senate floor a measure that would, in essence, express the Senate's disapproval of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. However, Republicans repeatedly objected to the procedural motion that allows a bill to be called up on the Senate floor (known as a "motion to proceed"), making opening debate on the bill itself impossible. Much of the Senate's day to day business depends on the unanimous consent of all members of the Senate in order to proceed. This makes it easy for just one person to hold up consideration of a bill, by simply withdrawing their consent for simple motions (such as in this case, where several Republicans objected to the "motion to proceed" to debating the bill).

In an effort to force the Senate to begin debating the bill itself, Democrats called a vote on bringing on this "motion to proceed" to a close. If the Senate votes to "invoke cloture" – or bring debate to a close – then lawmakers must either hold a vote on the legislation, amendment or motion in question, or move on to other business. This type of motion is most often called on contentious bills, amendments or motions where the leadership is concerned that consideration could be held up indefinitely by a handful of unhappy politicians.

The resolution in question would express the belief that the Senate and the American people no longer have confidence in Gonzales. In other words, passing the motion would have the effect of endorsing such a belief.

The "no confidence" resolution was part of a Democratic effort to keep pressure on the Bush administration to force Gonzales to resign in connection with the 2006 firings of nine U.S. Attorneys who worked for the Justice Department. Democrats were particularly incensed because they believed the firings were politically motivated because the attorneys were not loyal enough to Bush's policies, rather than because of their job performance. The administration denied that the firings were motivated by the attorneys' political beliefs.

The administration had shown no signs of giving in to such pressure and Gonzales, who repeatedly claimed to have no direct role in the firings, had refused to resign at the time this motion was made.  The resolution was drafted by Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who is also heading up a Senate investigation into the matter.

"After months of troubling and even shocking disclosures about the U.S. Attorney firings and the politicization of the Department of Justice, it is important for the Senate to go on record on the question of whether the Attorney General should continue in his post. This vote may end up being our only vote on this matter, but since the resolution itself is nonbinding, this vote, though procedural in nature, is sufficient to inform the Nation exactly what the Senate's position is. Those who vote against cloture plainly are comfortable with the Attorney General remaining right where he is. Those of us who vote for cloture are not," said Russell Feingold, D-Wis.

Republicans complained that Democrats were wasting the Senate's time with what amounted to political attacks, and urged defeating the motion. "This is a very disappointing spectacle here today. Now, the sponsor of the resolution—the fact is, he is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He is in that position, and then he is taking these attack positions. So I do not think anybody has to be drawn a further picture to understand what is going on with this effort," said Trent Lott, R-Miss.

The motion to end debate failed on a vote of 53-38. Though more voted yes than no, these types of motions require 60 votes to pass, a large margin of support in the Senate. Every Democrat voted for the motion. The majority of Republicans voted against it, though seven voted or it. Thus, the motion to end debate on the "motion to proceed" to the no confidence resolution on Gonzales was defeated, and the Senate was unable to bring up the resolution itself.

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