Republicans in the US Senate have blocked a vote of no confidence in Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Mr Gonzales denies being closely involved in the dismissals
Democrats have been trying to force Mr Gonzales to resign over the sacking of eight federal prosecutors last year.
He is backed by President George W Bush however, who dismissed the vote as "political" and said he would determine whether Mr Gonzales was effective.
Republicans said the non-binding vote was a "waste of time" and Democrats failed to gain enough support.
The resolution would have needed the support of 60 senators to take it to a final vote.
But the Democrats could only muster 53 votes in favour, seven short of the total required.
The resolution stated that the attorney general "no longer holds the confidence of the Senate and of the American people".
The row stems from accusations that Mr Gonzales concealed from Congress a political motivation behind the sacking of the federal prosecutors.
Democratic Senator Charles Schumer said: "The attorney general has shown he doesn't have the credibility to lead the department," he said.
But Republican minority whip Senator Trent Lott described the Democrats' motion as "a very disappointing spectacle".
However some prominent Republicans, including Chuck Hagel and John McCain have said Mr Gonzales should resign or be fired.
Senator Arlen Specter, the most senior Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he was concerned that the vote was a political manoeuvre by the Democrats - but nonetheless, he had no confidence in Mr Gonzales.
At a news conference earlier in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia, Mr Bush said Mr Gonzales had committed "no wrongdoing".
"They can try to have their votes of no confidence, but it's not going to determine who serves in my government," he said.
The BBC's correspondent in Sofia says US reporters following Mr Bush focused on entirely domestic issues - a sign that the president's brief respite from his political troubles at home is now over.
The no confidence vote came in the wake of the White House decision to choose a new chairman of the joint chiefs of staff in order to avoid a row with Congress.
Last week, the Bush administration decided that General Peter Pace would be given such a rough ride in his Senate hearings that it was not worth the effort involved in having his contract renewed.
The White House has also lost an important vote on its main domestic programme - immigration reform.