HED: Senators await committee action on U.S. attorney nomination
By Marty Russell
Mississippi’s two U.S. senators are awaiting action by the Senate Judiciary Committee on President Clinton’s choice for the northern district U.S. attorney post before committing any support, but one said it may already be too late in Clinton’s term for the confirmation to go through.
“We’re getting very close to the time when usually nominations of that sort are shut down,” Sen. Trent Lott, R-Miss., said Thursday. “I doubt if there will be many of those appointments made after the first of June. Whether his gets in or not depends on how the Judiciary Committee moves.”
Clinton last week named assistant U.S. attorney Calvin “Buck” Buchanan as his choice to fill the U.S. attorney post in the northern district. The post has been filled by acting U.S. Attorney Al Moreton since Attorney General Janet Reno, shortly after Clinton took office, ordered the resignations in 1993 of all Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.
Buchanan, 38, would become the first black to hold the U.S. attorney post in the district if he is confirmed by the Senate. The Okolona native said when the nomination was made that he would accept the $116,000-a-year job if confirmed despite the fact that he could be replaced in January if Clinton is not re-elected.
Buchanan could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon on whether he expected the confirmation process to proceed.
“I don’t even know if the Senate Judiciary Committee has received the (nomination) papers yet,” Lott said. “But I’m sure once they are received Sen. (Thad) Cochran and I will get some sort of notification.”
Cochran, while praising Buchanan’s work, also withheld judgment on the nomination pending Judiciary Committee action. Neither of the state’s senators serves on the committee.
“Mr. Buchanan is a hard working and dependable assistant U.S. attorney,” Cochran said. “The Senate Judiciary Committee will review his background, record and qualifications before making a recommendation to the Senate on his confirmation. I will be reviewing those findings and the recommendation of the committee and issuing an additional statement about the nomination at that time.”
Buchanan, in an earlier interview, said he did not expect any problems in being confirmed and Lott said that could be the case.
“I don’t know of any particular problems he has so it’s possible it could move through,” Lott said.
But he added that, if the confirmation did not proceed, the Democrats only had themselves to blame.
“They’ve taken three years and three months so they can’t complain too much if it doesn’t go through,” Lott said.
The appointment has been held up by bickering within the state Democratic Party and by Clinton’s insistence that at least one of the state’s two U.S. attorneys be an African-American. In August of 1994, white attorney Brad Pigott was picked for the southern district U.S. attorney post.
After the three candidates recommended by Clinton’s campaign co-chairmen – former Gov. William Winter and former 2nd District U.S. Rep. Mike Espy – were rejected, in part by then Democratic Party Chairman Ed Cole, current 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson stepped in to pick a nominee. Buchanan confirmed that Thompson was instrumental in his nomination.