The Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said today that he has directed staff from another committee to investigate new allegations of excessive drinking against John Tower, an unusual move that quickly raised protests from Republicans.
The partisan squabble erupted as President Bush once again defended his embattled defense nominee, saying there would be “25,000 people in the Pentagon” making sure Tower stands by his no-drinking pledge. Senate Democratic leader George J. Mitchell, meanwhile, conceded there may be further Democratic defections but insisted that the GOP will not have enough votes to win Tower’s confirmation.
Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the Armed Services Committee chairman who has led the fight against Tower, said the new allegations concerned Tower’s alcohol consumption, a subject that was exhaustively investigated during committee hearings. “The time frame is from the ‘70s until recently,” Nunn said.
“Why are we still investigating Sen. Tower?” Republican leader Bob Dole of Kansas asked on the Senate floor. “Isn’t the FBI report adequate? When does the investigation stop?”
Dole disclosed details of the separate investigation at the start of the fourth day of Senate debate on the troubled nomination.
Republicans face what they concede is an uphill battle to win Senate confirmation for Tower, who has been dogged by allegations of excessive drinking, womanizing and questions about his ties to defense contractors.
Mitchell said that despite the decision Monday by Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.) to back Tower, the nomination will be defeated.
‘Nomination Will Be Rejected’
“I feel that when the vote is taken, the nomination will be rejected. I do not believe there are sufficient votes to result in the confirmation of Sen. Tower,” Mitchell said.
Bush, meanwhile, repeated his support for Tower and termed the nominee’s pledge to swear off alcohol if confirmed by the Senate as a “fail-safe guarantee.”
“I think he’ll measure up to that qualification. Indeed, he has said he’ll never touch another drop of liquor and you’ll have 25,000 people in the Pentagon making sure that’s true,” Bush told an impromptu White House news conference.
Dole left open the possibility of asking the Senate to agree to allow Tower to answer the charges against him on the floor itself, but in his remarks, the GOP leader made the surprise announcement of the separate investigation.
Dole said he had been told that investigators from the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations had traveled to Texas last weekend to look into new charges against Tower.
Nunn acknowledged that he directed staff members of the subcommittee, which he chairs, to check the new allegations, and defended his actions, saying that he had been told by the FBI that it was no longer investigating charges against Tower.