MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
NPR's Ari Shapiro reports it's part of a buildup to the testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales before Congress next week.
ARI SHAPIRO: It seems as though every time lawmakers meet to vote on subpoenas in the U.S. attorneys' scandal, they have the same discussion. It goes like this: Republicans, are these things really necessary? Democrats, yes, they are. This morning, Republican Arlen Specter took the are-these-things-really-necessary position in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
BLOCK: Before we, actually, issue the subpoenas, I think we would be well advised to see if we can get the documents and see if we can get it on a voluntary basis to avoid compulsory process if possible. If it is not possible, then we're going to assert oversight rights of the committee.
SHAPIRO: His Democratic counterpart Chairman Patrick Leahy said the committee has been patient. Leahy said he's had no answer to three recent letters he sent the White House and the committee still hasn't received responses to written questions they've sent the attorney general back in January.
BLOCK: My frustration is we can almost, you know, the check's-in-the-mail kind of thing. It never shows up. It will show up voluntarily, of course I'm not going to issue a subpoena. But if the materials don't, I want to speed it up.
SHAPIRO: All the while, committee staffers have been interviewing justice officials behind the scenes in preparation for a big public hearing on Tuesday. That's when Attorney Alberto Gonzales will testify about the U.S. attorney firings. Today, a top Democrat talked about what he wants out of the hearing. He revealed "10 Questions I Plan to Ask the Attorney General on Tuesday" by Senator Charles Schumer.
BLOCK: We expect him when he gets this list to go back and check his recollection, look at his records, so he will be able to answer. Because after so many contradictory statements, contradictory evidence, next Tuesday is the attorney general's chance to set the record straight.
SHAPIRO: The questions focus on, among other things, what kind of contact the attorney general had with President Bush, Karl Rove, and other White House officials about the firings.
BLOCK: The questions are very simple. They're aimed very explicitly at getting the attorney general to answer them fully, to not claim he was unaware, he can't recall, to not duck the questions.
SHAPIRO: Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.
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