US Attorneys are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They normally serve terms concurrent with the President. In the past, in the case of a vacancy, the district court recommends and the Senate confirms within 120 days. However, the The Patriot Act Reauthorization Bill of 2005, PL 109-177, changed the process for filling vacancies.
Under the revised Patriot Act language, in the case of a vacancy the Attorney General is empowered to appoint an "interim" US Attorney for an indefinite period -- no Senate confirmation required. The language was inserted in the bill during conference committee at the request of the White House.
The resulting controversy between the Democratic Congress and the Republican White House put Attorney General Gonzales at the center of the storm.
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