Interim Appointment of U.S. Attorneys

March 26, 2007
Right now the House is considering H.R. 580, Interim Appointment of U.S. Attorneys. This bill, introduced by Rep. Howard Berman (CA-28), is designed to help better ensure the independence of U.S. Attorneys -- by repealing a provision in a 2006 statute that grants the Attorney General the authority to make indefinite interim appointments of U.S. Attorneys, who can then serve indefinitely without Senate confirmation. Upon introducing the bill, Rep. Berman referred to the eight US Attorneys who were asked to resign by the Bush Administration: "My bill will reset the system of checks and balances in the U.S. Attorney confirmation process. It will require Senate confirmation of any interim U.S. attorneys, including any chosen to replace these eight." A similar bill, S. 214, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, was passed by the Senate by an overwhelming, bipartisan vote of 94 to 2 on March 20.

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Full text of the bill >>

UPDATE: The bill passes, 329 to 78. From the floor debate:

Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law Chairwoman Linda Sanchez (CA-39):

"Prior to the forced resignation of eight U.S. Attorneys in recent months and outside the normal turnover of U.S. Attorneys that occurs with a new Administration, only 10 U.S. Attorneys were forced to resign in the last 25 years. The 10 U.S. Attorneys cited in the CRS report were all fired for cause."

Rep. Howard Berman (CA-28):

"Now we have a different story from the DOJ. Will Moschella, the former head of the office of legislative affairs, now claims sole responsibility for the provision and says he pursued the change on his own without the knowledge or coordination of his superiors at the Justice Department or the White House. This is a department, the Department of Justice, that says it fired eight U.S. Attorneys for not coordinating their work 100% with the priorities of the department. And yet, we're supposed to believe that they are permitting a relatively low-level official to fly solo in changing federal law on the appointment of U.S. Attorneys without any other departmental involvement?"