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White House is hurrying to fire eight U.S. prosecutors

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has the right to fire eight U.S. prosecutors, but he has not yet given one under oath to Congress.

Look, the attorney general thinks it's in everyone's best interest - and we agree with him - that he be able to get up and talk to Congress sooner than later" instead of waiting until his planned April 17 testimony, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Monday.

"I think the American people would like to see us resolve this, so that we can move on and work on other things. So we'd like to see the hearing moved up to next week," Perino said.

The administration signaled its interest in moving up Gonzales' testimony on Sunday, but Democrats rejected the idea, contending it was too late to adjust the schedule. The Senate has just started a one-week vacation, while the House is taking a two-week spring break.

The push to get Gonzales before Congress more quickly reflects the frustration of Republican senators, the White House and even the Justice Department over how long it will take for the embattled attorney general to testify. Each passing day adds life to the story.

In a sign of Gonzales' diminished standing with lawmakers, the Senate Republican leader offered lukewarm support for the top U.S. law enforcer, whose inconsistent explanations about the dismissals have become a distraction for the Bush administration.

Asked directly if he has confidence in Gonzales, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, said: "I can honestly say the president does."

"What I can tell you at the moment is that he enjoys the support of the president, for whom he works," he said. "I think most Republican senators are willing to give the attorney general a chance to come up before the Judiciary Committee and give his side of the story."

Lawmakers have demanded to know whether the prosecutors were fired as part of a plan to fill the jobs with political cronies, or as payback for not pursuing cases that were politically important to Republicans.

Gonzales is scheduled to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 17. White House counselor Dan Bartlett said Sunday that the panel ought to reschedule the hearing for next week.

"Let's move it up and let's get the facts," Bartlett said. "Let's have the attorney general there sooner rather than later."

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, said Gonzales was offered earlier dates but turned them down. It was Gonzales who chose April 17 and now that "everybody has set their schedule according to that," that date will not change, he said.

Until recently, department officials said they wanted to give Congress enough time to go through the more than 3,000 pages of e-mails, memos, calendar pages and other documents detailing the decision to fire the prosecutors.

That changed Friday - the day after Gonzales' former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, testified to the committee _ when aides said they would try to get Gonzales to Congress as soon as possible to explain his side.

In damaging testimony, Sampson said Gonzales was deeply involved in the removal of the U.S. attorneys, contrary to the attorney general's public statements.

"We are absolutely confused by the White House position," said Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. "For the longest time, Alberto Gonzales wasn't going to come, maybe much later. Now the White House can't wait to bring him in."