When the USA Patriot Act was reauthorised in 2006, President Bush was "steathily" given authority to appoint US attorneys on an "interim" basis, with no oversight or need to seek permission from the Senate. Bush has now been successfully stripped of this "awesome" power.
From Raw Story :
In a 329-78 vote last night, the House of Representatives followed the Senate and stripped President George W. Bush of the authority to appoint United States Attorneys on an interim basis, ending the ability of the Bush administration to do an end run around the Senate in putting controversial US Attorneys in office.
The bill sponsored by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) places a 120-day limit to the term of a United States Attorney appointed on an interim basis. Democrats allege that the previous authority to appoint interim US Attorneys on an unlimited basis, inserted stealthily into the 2006 reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, was used as a 'loophole' to insert Bush administration political loyalists into office.
Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the 'awesome powers' of the US Attorneys required Senate confirmation of their appointments.
"The bill before us today...will restore the historical checks and balances to the process by which interim U.S. Attorneys are appointed," he said. "It will repair a breach in the law that has been a major contributing factor in the recent termination of eight able and experienced United States Attorneys and their replacement with interim appointments."
Democrats cited e-mails from the Bush administration on the House floor yesterday as evidence that the interim appointment authority had been abused.
Rep. Berman pointed to an e-mail from Kyle Sampson, the former chief of staff to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said "We should gum this to death. Our guy is in there so the status quo is good for us. Pledge a desire for a Senate-confirmed U.S. Attorney and otherwise hunker down."
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