Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Senate Votes to Revoke Power to Replace Prosecutors

By a vote of 94 to 2, the Senate voted to restore the previous system for naming federal prosecutors. Under that system, when a vacancy occurred, the attorney general was allowed to name an interim United States attorney to serve for up to 120 days while the administration submitted a nominee for permanent appointment to the Senate. If a nominee is not confirmed within that period, the federal district court could then name a replacement.

The measure the Senate approved today, if it is enacted into law, would undo language in the USA Patriot Act that had allowed the White House to bypass the Senate in naming prosecutors. It must still be approved by the House, but passage seems assured in that chamber, since it has a stronger Democratic majority than the Senate does.

The president can veto the measure, but the lopsided margin in the Senate suggests that a veto could be overridden. And the Justice Department has indicated that it will not oppose the change.

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