CATEGORY: USA Federal Government

AUTHOR: MARTY

HED:U.S. attorney vote expected today in Senate

By Marty Russell

Daily Journal

A four-year battle over a vacant, presidentially appointed federal post is expected to end today with the U.S. Senate voting to confirm the first black U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Thursday he expects a vote on the nomination of Calvin "Buck" Buchanan to the post today before Congress adjourns for its August recess.

"Unless we run into some unforeseen problem, it will pass (today) by a unanimous voice vote," Lott said during a news conference Thursday.

Buchanan, 38, was first nominated for the job last spring but was not confirmed before the presidential election. Even though he was nominated by President Clinton, who was re-elected, rules required the president to resubmit the nomination after beginning his second term.

Contacted Thursday, Buchanan said he was unaware of the pending vote.

"If that's the case, that's good news," he said.

Buchanan has served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Northern District office since 1990 while veteran assistant U.S. Attorney Al Moreton has served as interim head of the office pending an official appointment.

The post has been vacant since Clinton took office in January of 1993 and U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno called for the resignation of all Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys nationwide. The post had been filled by Robert Whitwell who had served in the position since being appointed in 1985 by President Reagan.

Clinton insisted that at least one of Mississippi's two U.S. attorneys be a minority appointment and it was left up to a committee, including the Clinton campaign's co-chairman in the state, former Gov. William Winter, to make a recommendation.

But the committee's nominees began to drop out for personal reasons and, in at least one case, because a candidate's tax problems came to light. Meanwhile, white attorney and former state school board member Brad Pigott was confirmed for the Southern District post meaning the Northern District position would have to go to a minority.

In the end, Buchanan was tapped for the $116,000-a-year post by 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson.

Buchanan, an Okolona native, served seven years in the U.S. Army as a prosecutor, defense counsel and civil counsel prior to becoming an assistant U.S. attorney.

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