Article by: RANDY FURST 

Andrew Luger could be approved by the Senate by early next year, giving Minnesota a full-time U.S. attorney for the first time in two years.

President Obama formally nominated Andrew Luger to become U.S. attorney in Minnesota on Thursday, U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken said.

The nomination is not a surprise since he was recommended by the two senators, both of whom are Democrats like Obama.

Luger’s nomination will now go to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, which will review the nomination and make its recommendation and send it to the Senate for a full vote.

Klobuchar, who has pushed hard to expedite Luger’s nomination, said that the Justice Department had interviewed him and he has been cleared by the FBI. She said that despite the current differences in the Senate, she is hopeful that Luger will be approved by the Judiciary Committee and by the full U.S. Senate by the end of the year or, if not by then, in the second week of January, when the Senate reconvenes.

Klobuchar said that she’d had “good discussions about the need to get a permanent U.S. attorney in place” with Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

Klobuchar has emphasized that because B. Todd Jones had been both the U.S. attorney and acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, (ATF) Minnesota has not had a full-time permanent U.S. attorney for two years.

Jones was approved as ATF director in July over the strong opposition of Grassley, so Grassley’s support for a vote on Luger will be important.

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger, who served in both Bush presidencies and supported Luger’s nomination, said he expects it to be approved because Luger is “a noncontroversial appointment.”

Klobuchar and Franken recommended Luger on July 23.

Luger served as assistant U.S. attorney from 1989 to 1992 in Brooklyn, New York, and an assistant U.S. attorney in Minnesota from 1992 to 1995 where he focused on white-collar crimes.

He is currently a member of the Greene Espel law firm in Minneapolis, where he has specialized in civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense.