The Senate Judiciary Committee postponed Tuesday's questioning of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the dismissals of eight federal prosecutors, saying the proceedings would be inappropriate in light of the Virginia Tech shootings.

The committee's Democratic chairman, Patrick Leahy, made the decision to postpone the long-awaited hearing, said Tracy Schmaler, Leahy's spokeswoman. The hearing is considered Gonzales' last chance to quiet a controversy that has prompted calls in both parties for his resignation.

Leahy said the hearing has been rescheduled for Thursday. He said he made the decision after conferring with Gonzales and the committee's senior Republican, Sen. Arlen Specter. "All three of us agree," he said.

"I'm sure that he will want to be dealing with the matters of the shooting," Leahy said of Gonzales.

Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said Gonzales "is anxious to testify" but would defer to Leahy to reschedule the hearing "out of respect for the family members impacted by this horrific tragedy."

The Bush administration has pushed for Gonzales to testify as soon as possible to help quell intensifying demands for his resignation. But the Democratic-led Judiciary panel pushed back as hard, saying Gonzales lost his chance to come earlier by delaying it last month.