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The morning after Republicans blocked the no-confidence resolution in the Senate, the papers are trying to figure out what, if anything, the resolution’s failure means.

The vote itself was apparently unprecedented; never before in the history of the Senate has there been a no-confidence vote for a cabinet official. And even if it had passed, the resolution had no force.

Seven Republicans joined Democrats in voting for the resolution (Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) voted against it, and Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK), who’s under investigation by Gonzales’ department, merely voted “present”). And as The New York Times notes, “Republicans who rejected the proposal offered little defense of Mr. Gonzales [with the notable exception of Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)], but criticized the resolution as a politically motivated stunt and a waste of the Senate’s time.” In other words, voting no to no-confidence did not equal confidence. Any way you cut it, it was not a proud day for Gonzales.

So where do the papers come down on what the failure of an unprecedented symbolic vote with a number of (but not quite enough) Republican defections means?

There are really two separate questions here. The first is whether Gonzales will stay on as attorney general — he will, but then the vote wouldn’t have done anything to change that anyway. The administration has shown itself to be brazenly immune to political pressure on the question of Gonzales’ tenure. The second question is whether the vote will affect the health of the investigation into the U.S. attorney firings.

The Los Angeles Times concludes that Democrats have slowed the momentum of their own investigation into the U.S. attorney firings:

There were signs that Democrats were on the verge of taking that investigation to a new level, possibly by issuing subpoenas to the White House for documents and testimony of such figures as political operative Karl Rove.

But the no-confidence vote suggests that the Democrats do not have the political might to force the issue.

McClatchy chose an opposite tack, running their story on the vote under the headline, “Majority of Senators Seek `No Confidence’ Vote on Gonzales.”

The investigation will churn on regardless. Next week, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty will appear before the House Judiciary Committee. The hearing will be an opportunity for McNulty to hit back after former DoJ aide Monica Goodling publicly accused him last month of not being “fully candid” in his February testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The following week, the Senate Judiciary Committee will focus their sights on William Mercer, the high ranking DoJ official who’s pulled double duty as the U.S. Attorney for Montana for two years — and yet had the nerve to tag one of the fired U.S. attorneys, New Mexico’s David Iglesias, as an absentee landlord because Iglesias served in the Navy reserve for a month each year.

Not only that, but the Justice Department’s Inspector General, in tandem with the Office of Professional Responsibility, continues to conduct its investigation of the firings and politicization at the department. Democrats expect the report, which will be made public when it’s completed (probably sometime later this summer), to be bad news for the administration.

In other words, despite the contrary claims of victory and defeat, expect things to move along much as they have.