John Tower's nomination as defense secretary was in limbo as Congress left town for a weeklong recess, with many Democrats saying they need answers to questions about Tower's conduct before they can make a decision.
Tower, meanwhile, didn't shy away from the spotlight, appearing Thursday night with President Bush at a joint session of Congress. White House aides said Tower has been advising Bush on military and budget issues, and sat next to Bush at a Cabinet meeting to review the new budget.In contrast to the Democrats, Republicans rushed to support Tower, saying that he was the victim of unfounded allegations and rumors.
After Bush's speech, Congress adjourned until Feb. 21, the first day the Senate Armed Services Committee could vote on the nomination of Tower, a former Texas senator and one-time chairman of the panel.
Tower would have to be confirmed by the full Senate before he could officially take control of the Pentagon, which is being run by William H. Taft IV, deputy defense secretary under former President Reagan.
Senate leaders agreed late Thursday to bring Tower's nomination to a floor vote in an expedited fashion after the holiday, assuming investigators have finished their work. One deadline facing the defense secretary is arriving within 60 days at specifics on how to achieve $6.4 billion in reductions in Pentagon spending.
The most recent holdup in Tower's protracted nomination process came when Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., postponed the vote after the White House said the FBI needed more time to investigate allegations of a financial nature.