The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee said Friday new allegations against Defense Secretary-designate John Tower won't delay the panel's vote for long. Congressional sources said the allegations concerned drinking and womanizing.
The committee had been expected to vote Thursday to recommend Senate confirmation of Tower, but that was postponed after the emergence of the new allegations.Sen. John Warner, R-Va., declined on Friday to say what the information dealt with. But other sources indicated it concerned Tower's personal life and specifically alcohol and women.
"It's just another chapter in an ongoing investigation," Warner said. "I don't attach any more significance to this chapter than to any other."
He said an FBI report on the subject should reach the committee "on Monday and . . . we can proceed to a vote Tuesday or Wednesday."
Tower, meanwhile, sought to dispel any impression of an embattled nominee, meeting for about two hours at his Jefferson Hotel residence with five people likely to be named to deputy posts at the Pentagon.
He later issued a statement, saying the meeting had been scheduled for a week "and had nothing to do with the proceedings before the Senate Armed Services Committee."
"The discussions centered on the schedule of events for the first six months of the administration, the relationships among various positions within the Pentagon, policy and strategy, and management reform," the statement said.
Congressional sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said new allegations about Tower surfaced after conservative lobbyist Paul Weyrich said in public testimony Tuesday that he had seen Tower publicly inebriated and with women other than his wife on several occasions.
Committee members later met in private with Weyrich, and several indicated they saw no bar to his confirmation.
Editorials in Defense News and Army Times, two widely circulated, industry publications, called for Tower to withdraw his nomination. The editorials are scheduled to appear in Monday's editions.
Army Times, a 49-year-old, independent publication, said Tower's public position "has been so compromised by the agonizing process by which he was nominated and is being confirmed . . . that he cannot be the strong spokesman the Defense Department needs now."
Defense News, also an independent publication, suggested Tower's links to defense consultants is the most troubling aspect of the recent confirmation process, and said, "There is ample reason to doubt whether Mr. Tower is the man for these times."
At the White House, spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "Our feeling is he will be confirmed. Whenever you have a candidate who is undergoing this kind of scrutiny there are always things that turn up. We will await the final judgment."
Rep. Les Aspin, D-Wis., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he did not think it was "necessary at this time to withdraw the nomination."
On Thursday, Senate Armed Services Chairman Sam Nunn, D-Ga., announced the vote was being delayed. He said the committee had received new accusations about Tower Wednesday afternoon and evening, as did the White House. Both forwarded the information to the FBI.