The controversy over fired prosecutors is jeopardizing confirmation of President Bush’s pick for the No. 3 official at the Justice Department, reports the Associated Press. The nomination of Bill Mercer, U.S. attorney for Montana, to become associate attorney general has been put on hold by Democrats. They want to question him about his role in the dismissal of several federal prosecutors late last year. Mercer has served as acting associate attorney general since he was nominated in September. At the same time, he is the chief federal prosecutor in Montana, double-duty that has prompted criticism back home.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for Mr. Mercer to hold both of these jobs,” said Democratic Sen. Jon Tester. “Montana needs a full-time U.S. attorney.” It is not unusual for U.S. attorneys to serve in temporary jobs at the Justice Department. Criticism of the practice has increased as scrutiny intensified over the prosecutor firings.