Richard L. Thornburgh says he's eager to begin work as the nation's 76th attorney general but is not counting on keeping the job if George Bush becomes president.

"I look on this as a six-month assignment," Thornburgh said Thursday after an 85-0 Senate vote confirmed him as successor to the controversial Edwin Meese III.Three other nominees for top Justice Department positions were less fortunate Thursday than Thornburgh, as the Senate quit for the summer without acting on them. Several senators used parliamentary maneuvering to block action unless the Senate first took up legislation to enforce a treaty against genocide. The genocide legislation was not considered.

The lack of action, however, is not likely to have a major effect on department operations since all three already are serving in acting capacities: Salt Lake lawyer Harold Christensen as deputy attorney general; Francis A. Keating II as associate attorney general; and Edward S.G. Dennis Jr. as chief of the criminal division.

"We almost worked out something, but at the last moment we were unsuccessful," said Senate Republican leader Bob Dole, R-Kan. The Senate likely will vote on the three in September.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was angered by the delay in voting on Christensen. He said the Senate Democratic leadership went back on a promise to him that Christensen, who is not controversial, would be approved.