SENATE confirms Republican congressman as new DEA chief

Thursday, August 2nd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Rep. Asa Hutchinson, one of the House prosecutors in former President Clinton's impeachment trial, has won Senate confirmation to lead the Drug Enforcement Administration.

``I am thrilled that the Senate had given its consent to my nomination,'' Hutchinson, R-Ark., said after the 98-1 voice vote by the Democratic-controlled Senate.

``It is difficult to leave Congress, but I am excited to have the opportunity to serve Arkansas and the country by beginning our great national crusade against illegal drugs,'' said Hutchinson, 50.

``This is a moment of great pride for me,'' said Sen. Tim Hutchinson, R-Ark., brother of the congressman.

The lone dissenting vote came from Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn., who said, among other things, that he disagreed with Hutchinson's support of ``the escalation of the drug war in Colombia.''

Not voting was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Clinton was impeached by the House on two articles of perjury and obstruction of justice. The Senate voted to acquit the president in February 1990.

Asa Hutchinson did not say when he would resign, saying he had to coordinate the timing with the White House. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee will set dates for the special election to determine who will occupy Hutchinson's seat after his resignation.

Hutchinson, a former federal prosecutor, is serving his third term from a heavily Republican district in northwest Arkansas.

As a U.S. attorney for western Arkansas in the 1980s, he prosecuted and won a guilty plea from Roger Clinton, the former president's half brother, on a drug charge.

In the House, Hutchinson is a member of the House Judiciary Committee and the House Speaker's Task Force for a Drug Free America.

A former chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, Hutchinson has a law degree from the University of Arkansas.

The DEA is part of the Justice Department, and is at the forefront of U.S. drug interdiction efforts.