The Senate will convene a Watergate-type select committee early next year to investigate the Iran-arms- contra aid scandal, Senate Democratic leader Robert C. Byrd said today.
Byrd, who will lead the new Democratic majority in the 100th Congress, told reporters that he and Republican leader Bob Dole agreed that the committee will be composed of six Democrats and five Republicans.
The committee would be similar to the one headed by the late Sen. Sam Ervin (D-N.C.) that probed the Watergate scandal in 1973 and disclosed the existence of the White House taping system that led to the downfall of Richard Nixon.
Byrd said he intends to announce the names of the committee's Democratic members about Dec. 15, the date on which the Senate Intelligence Committee expects to conclude its first round of hearings into the Iran- contra matter.
Dole was to meet later today with White House Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan to discuss arrangements. Bipartisan congressional leaders were to meet with Reagan at some later time, perhaps Friday morning.
While Byrd and Dole agreed on forming such a committee, they disagreed on the necessity of calling Congress into special session this month to get the investigative process moving.
Can Be Ready by January
By naming the members this month, the panel can informally move ahead by selecting the staff, including the chief counsel, and be ready when Congress opens in January.
Byrd declined to answer questions about the membership of the committee or who would be named its chairman.
(Senate sources told Reuters that Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) was being considered as a top candidate to chair the committee or at least be a member. Heflin is a former chief judge of the Alabama Supreme Court.
(Others being considered for the committee, Reuters' sources said, include Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), who served on the Watergate committee, and George J. Mitchell (D-Me.), a former U.S. District Court judge.)