William Bradford Reynolds will remain chief of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division if he is not confirmed for the agency's No. 3 job, the department's chief spokesman said.
"Mr. Reynolds intends to stay in his position should he not be confirmed" as associate attorney general, said spokesman Terry H. Eastland. "We have every hope he will be confirmed."
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote Thursday on Reynolds, whose nomination is in jeopardy despite intense lobbying by President Reagan, the White House legislative relations team and Justice Department officials.
Major civil rights groups, who believe that Reynolds has refused to protect women, minorities and the handicapped, have been lobbying just as hard to have the nomination rejected.
If Reynolds lost in the Senate but remained assistant attorney general for civil rights, it could amount to a Pyrrhic victory for the civil rights groups.
Ralph Neas, director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, said, "The immediate question is whether the Senate should promote someone who has placed himself above the law, and who has not been candid with the Senate. If necessary, we will then address any other questions."
Two of the Judiciary Committee's 10 Republicans, Sens. Arlen Specter (Pa.) and Charles McC. Mathias Jr. (Md.), have indicated they would not support a panel recommendation that the Senate confirm Reynolds.
One Democrat, Sen. Howell Heflin (Ala.), has given no indication of his position.