Friday, March 09, 2007

Justice agrees to stop end-runs around Congress

While the politicized firings of eight U.S. attorneys has generated plenty of political noise, the most egregious aspect of the whole case was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales using an obscure Patriot Act provision to avoid submitting the replacement nominees to the Senate for confirmation.

That, at least, appears likely to change.

The Bush administration, accused of politicizing the hiring and firing of U.S. attorneys, agreed Thursday not to oppose legislation to restore rules ensuring Senate oversight when new prosecutors are named, Senate Democrats said....

A little-noticed provision in last year's reauthorization of the Patriot Act (gave) the attorney general the power to appoint "interim" U.S. attorneys. Because the appointments are considered temporary, Senate confirmation is not required, even though the prosecutors can serve indefinitely.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has already approved a bill that would revert to prior practice, under which interim attorneys could serve for a maximum of 120 days without confirmation.

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