The confirmation vote on Defense Secretary-designate John Tower was delayed for at least 10 days as Democrats on the Armed Services Committee said Wednesday the FBI was reviewing allegations about the former senator's finances.
Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., the committee chairman, told reporters he could not vote to confirm Tower until the latest allegations were checked, and said he had informed President Bush of that fact at a White House meeting on Tuesday night."I told the president frankly that I have serious concerns, and I also stated that if a vote was held immediately, I would vote no because of these concerns," Nunn said.
"There are new allegations of a financial nature which are now being checked in the Tower nomination," said Nunn.
The administration had been pushing for a vote this week, but delayed the request after Nunn and the committee's ranking Republican, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, met with the president.
Sen. James Exon, D-Neb., said the latest FBI report on Tower could not be complete by Friday, when the Senate is scheduled to begin a weeklong recess.
The Senate majority leader, George Mitchell of Maine, said on the floor of the Senate that all members of that body wanted a chance to thoroughly review the FBI report on Tower.
Republicans immediately rushed to defend the nominee. Bob Dole, the Senate Republican leader, said he had spoken with Tower on the telephone Wednesday morning and found him "upbeat" and "hanging in there."
Another Republican on the committee, William Cohen of Maine, cautioned against allowing the Tower nomination to turn into a "partisan wrangle" between Democrats and Republicans.
"Frankly, that would not bode well certainly for relations with the administration, but it wouldn't bode well for the Congress of the United States itself," he said.
Exon said that allegations continued to flow concerning Tower's drinking and financial affairs, but that he would not know the specifics until the FBI report is complete.