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North Dakota U.S. attorney nomination delayed in Senate committee

Tim Purdon

FARGO -- The process of securing the next U.S. attorney for North Dakota hit another roadblock Thursday when the Senate Judiciary Committee decided to delay consideration of nominee Timothy Purdon.

Committee members were poised to consider the Bismarck attorney during a hearing on Capitol Hill, but members invoked a rule that allows any agenda item -- including nominations -- to be held over for at least a week or until the next meeting, whichever comes later.

It's possible the committee could take up the nomination next week.

But with committee hearings scheduled to consider Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan, followed by a congressional holiday break, it's also likely it could be mid-July before the committee considers Purdon.

Approval by the Judiciary Committee is necessary before Purdon's nomination can be put up for a confirmation vote by the entire Senate.

During Thursday's hearing, two other nominees being considered for U.S. attorney appointments were approved in swift fashion.

Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., did not explain at the hearing why the delay regarding Purdon was requested.

North Dakota Democratic Sen. Byron Dorgan said a Republican senator on the committee made the request, but he declined to reveal who it was.

It could not be independently determined Thursday which senator made the request or why.

Although the procedural delay is not uncommon within the committee, it might signal Republican concern with Purdon's nomination.

When President Barack Obama nominated Purdon in early February, the announcement was met with severe backlash from conservatives who criticized Purdon's ties to the Democratic Party.

Purdon served as North Dakota's Democratic National committeeman before his nomination. He also previously held other leadership positions within the state party and worked on national campaigns, including as state counsel for Obama's presidential bid.

Dorgan said he hoped conservatives' previous criticism of Purdon wouldn't affect the process.

"He's well qualified for the job," Dorgan said.

Meanwhile, the continued delays in confirming a U.S. attorney for North Dakota sparks renewed frustration, Dorgan said.

He was vocal in 2009 about the continuous delays from the White House in announcing a nominee.

"I'm done predicting when this is going to happen," Dorgan said. "It should have happened a long, long, long time ago."

Lynn C. Jordheim has served as North Dakota's acting U.S. attorney since September, when Bush appointee Drew Wrigley resigned.

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