As Clock Ticks For Gonzales, He Finds Few Friends In The Senate

Now is about the time that Alberto Gonzales might be wishing he'd spent a little more time at the Capitol. Senate Republican support for the embattled attorney general is sinking, and officials close to Senate leadership today said they expect the Bush ally to be out of a job by early April after the White House stages a short fight to keep him.

"It's a macho issue, a manhood issue," said one top GOP congressional aide. Another official gave Gonzales a shorter lead, guessing "in two weeks, maybe three on the outside."

Senate aides note that the relationship between Congress and the Justice Department was already strained over the surprise raid on Democratic Rep. William Jefferson's office last year during a corruption probe, an offense that has not gone overlooked as more on the Hill start calling for Gonzales's head.

Meanwhile, two Republican congressional aides today said that the White House and Justice Department were supposed to release the 3,000 pages of documents related to the prosecutor firing controversy on Friday, but a "technical glitch" caused a delay until Monday. The administration had hoped to make the document drop late Friday, allowing the story to burn out during the weekend's news abyss.

"It's just another sign of incompetence," said a key aide.

"The Clinton White House is the model and it's what we urged and they promised," said another GOP official close to the White House. "Instead they claim a technical glitch stopped that and now what we've got is the week starting on a bad note and Democrats feasting on these documents," said the official.

By Paul Bedard