WASHINGTON – The White House on Friday called the Senate's upcoming no-confidence vote over Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a "political stunt."
President Bush's support for his longtime ally and friend will not waver, said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.
Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., on Thursday became the fifth Republican senator to demand that Gonzales leave. Meanwhile, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., suggested that Bush consider ejecting Gonzales if he decides Gonzales is doing more harm than good.
Two Democratic senators, Chuck Schumer of New York and Dianne Feinstein of California, said they would offer a nonbinding resolution expressing that Gonzales was too weakened to run the Justice Department. The department is embroiled in probes of the firings of prosecutors and accusations that it has become too politicized.
"I think the time has come for the Senate to express its will," Feinstein said. "We lack confidence in the attorney general."
"We would consider it another political stunt," Fratto said.
He also said Gonzales does not necessarily need Congress' support to continue serving.
"It's important for any public official to have as much confidence as he can garner and it will ebb and flow," Fratto said. "But it will not ebb and flow with this president and this attorney general."
Eroding Gonzales' support was the revelation that in 2004 Gonzales, as White House counsel, went to the hospital bedside of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft and pressured him to certify the legality of Bush's controversial eavesdropping program while Ashcroft lay in intensive care.
Ashcroft had reservations about the program's legality and refused, according to Senate testimony by former Deputy Attorney General James Comey.
Asked twice during a news conference Thursday whether he personally ordered Gonzales to Ashcroft's hospital room, Bush refused to answer. Fratto also refused to discuss the scene, or even to confirm that it happened.