WASHINGTON Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales' failure to step down was "no doubt, bad for the Justice Department."
Specter's comments, made on the television program "Fox News Sunday," reflected a continued lack of support for Gonzales among key Republicans on Capitol Hill as he faces accusations that the dismissals of eight U.S. attorneys were politically motivated.
So far, only one Republican senator, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, has called outright for Gonzales to resign, though others made their anger at him clear in a blistering hearing over the dismissals on Thursday. In his testimony, Gonzales cited a faulty memory at least 50 times in responding to questions about the dismissals.
After the hearing, aides to Gonzales reportedly called the absence of a demand for his resignation from Specter a "positive barometer." But Specter said Sunday that they were misreading him.
"I don't think they should be celebrating that, because the attorney general's testimony was very, very damaging to his own credibility," he said. "Charges are being made that the Department of Justice was the political arm of the White House."
Specter said that it was up to President Bush to demand a resignation but that Gonzales' presence "is bad for the Department of Justice."
"It is harmful," he said. "There has been a very substantial decrease in morale. There's no doubt about that."
On the same program, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., a member of the Judiciary Committee who has called for Gonzales to step down, denied reports that he would block confirmation of a successor as a means of pressing advisers to the president, including Karl Rove and Harriet E. Miers, the former White House counsel, to testify about the dismissals.
"I would not want to hold up the next attorney general nomination, because we need to administer justice," Schumer said. "But at the same time, I think there's an imperative for the White House to help us interview people like Rove and Miers, because recent testimony including Gonzales', more and More indicates that they may be at the nexus of this."