Baucus, Tester cosponsor legislation reversing Mercer’s ‘residency clause’

Montana deserves a full-time U.S. Attorney, no exceptions, senators say

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester are cosponsoring legislation that will force U.S. Attorney Bill Mercer to choose between one of his two full-time jobs.

Mercer has been under heavy fire for neglecting his role as Montana's U.S. Attorney while serving in Washington, D.C., as acting Associate Attorney General—the number three job in the U.S. Justice Department.

Last week the WashingtonPost reported that in 2005, Mercer had a provision slipped into the USA Patriot Act allowing federal prosecutors to live outside their districts to serve in other jobs.  This legislation would reverse Mercer's 'residency clause' and require U.S. attorneys to live in the districts they serve.

Baucus and Tester say Montana and other states deserve full-time U.S. Attorneys, no exceptions.

"Montana deserves a full-time U.S. Attorney that resides in the Big Sky state and this bill will help make sure that happens," Baucus said.

Tester, who has called on Mercer to resign as Montana's U.S. Attorney, said the legislation is common sense.

"Bill Mercer didn't like living within the law so he had it changed," Tester said.  "That's not how folks in Montana do business.  It's time for Montana to have a full-time U.S. Attorney who lives in Montana."

During a recent hearing on Capitol Hill, the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee referred to Mercer as an "absentee landlord," and asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales how many days a year Mercer spends working in Washington.  Gonzales could not answer the question.

The Chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, then told Gonzales that Mercer testified he's in Montana only three days a month.