No more absentee landlords!
It's hard work for Democrats undoing the damage of the Patriot Act Reauthorization bill passed last year, a huge bill that contained a number of provisions that affected U.S. attorneys.
Last month, the Congress passed* a bill reversing one of those provisions -- one that made it possible for the attorney general to indefinitely appoint U.S. attorneys without Senate confirmation.
Now Four Democrats are trying to undo another of those little-noticed provisions -- one that made it possible for certain U.S. attorneys to pull double duty in the Justice Department leadership. The provision was shepherded through by William Mercer, the principal associate deputy attorney general, who's also the U.S. Attorney for Montana. When the chief judge in his district, hopping mad that Mercer is gone almost all the time, charged that Mercer was violating the residency requirement for U.S. attorneys, Mercer had the law changed. And he's kept both jobs for two years.
But Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Jon Tester (D-MT) will introduce legislation on Monday to change the law back to what it was. âU.S. Attorneys cannot do their jobs adequately from Washington, D.C.," Feinstein said. "The position requires a huge commitment.â
The punchline to all this, remember, is that Justice Department officials have claimed that U.S. Attorney for New Mexico David Iglesias was fired because he was an "absentee landlord," spending 30 days a year away from the office -- on Navy reserve duty.
*Update: A TPM reader points out to me that although both houses have passed a version of this bill, they have not yet been reconciled in conference. So the Congress hasn't yet passed a final version.