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US Senate votes to cut attorney general interim hiring power

[JURIST] The US Senate voted Tuesday to limit the power of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile; JURIST news archive] to name interim US attorneys, passing the Preserving United States Attorney Independence Act of 2007 [S 214 materials] by a vote of 94-2 [roll call]. The vote came amid increasing pressure on Gonzales to resign [JURIST report] after the recent firings of eight federal prosecutors, which have been criticized as politically motivated [JURIST report]. Under a provision of the Patriot Act [JURIST news archive], the attorney general has the power to replace removed US attorneys with permanent substitutes without having to gain Senate approval.

The bill, if approved by the House, will require Senate confirmation of interim US attorneys within 120 days of a nomination. If there is no confirmation during that time period, the district court for the particular district would appoint a replacement. The Bush administration had been opposed to the bill, but Gonzales told senators earlier this month that the administration would drop its objection [JURIST report] to the proposed bill. AP has more.

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