Majority Democrats in the Senate are forcing their Republican colleagues on the record about whether embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should keep his job.
No one is predicting that a symbolic resolution expressing no confidence in Gonzales will survive even the test vote Monday. Most Republicans are likely to vote no, dismissing the whole exercise as a ploy to embarrass President Bush.
At a news conference in Sofia, Bulgaria, the last stop on a weeklong visit to Europe, the president reaffirmed his support for Gonzales, a longtime friend and legal adviser.
"They can have their votes of no-confidence but it's not going to make the determination about who serves in my government," Bush said Monday. "This process has been drug out a long time. ... It's political."
Still, few of the Senate's 100 members are rushing to defend Gonzales. What goodwill remained toward him after the firings of eight federal prosecutors over the winter seemed to fade after the attorney general told a Senate committee dozens of times that he could not recall key details.
"I'm not going to comment on the kind of job" Gonzales has done, Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Sunday on CNN's "Late Edition." "The vote is whether we should take a vote to express a lack of confidence by the Senate. That's wrong."
White House spokesman Tony Snow brushed off the impending vote.
"There's an attempt to sort of pull this thing like a piece of taffy and looking if there's any political advantage in it. There's not," Snow said on Fox News on Sunday.
Democrats say it's only right for senators to go on record, since five Republicans have called outright for Gonzales' dismissal and many more of the president's party have said in public comments that they have lost confidence in him.
"If all senators who have actually lost confidence in Attorney General Gonzales voted their conscience, this vote would be unanimous," said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who authored the resolution with Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif. "We will soon see where people's loyalties lie."
Even before the firings, Republicans and Democrats alleged widespread abuses of the USA Patriot Act's wiretapping authority by the Justice Department and the appearance that the traditionally independent law enforcement agency is being run too much at the White House's behest.
But GOP senators, including those displeased by Gonzales' conduct, have widely panned Schumer's no-confidence resolution as a political trick to shake Bush's continuing support for his longtime friend.
The resolution itself is only one sentence: "It is the sense of the Senate that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people."
Gonzales planned to spend part of Monday in Florida, speaking at a terrorism law enforcement conference in Miami.
Democrats continue push against Gonzales