WASHINGTON — Skeptical congressional Democrats said today that they will wait for President Reagan to make good on his promise to become more engaged in running the country and called on him to hold a news conference to demonstrate that he is in command.
A New Jersey congressman said, "There's something sad and unhealthy about a President who commits to obey the law after six years."
Sen. Howell Heflin (D-Ala.), a member of the Senate committee investigating the Iran- contra affair, said Wednesday's speech represented "a transfusion" for Reagan.
But he said the President needs to go beyond staged appearances like the speech and quickly hold a news conference "at which very pointed and searching questions are asked. That will be the ultimate test" of Reagan's credibility and competence, he said.
Rep. Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.) said: "It (the speech) will help the President's personal public opinion problem. However, I would rather see him submit to a full press conference."
House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) called the speech "a very good step in the right direction" and had no criticism. "Nobody expects the President of the United States to grovel," he said.
House Majority Leader Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said Reagan should have gone further by noting the questions that remain about what happened to the diverted money and about his own misleading statements last November.
"I would have preferred if the President had been a little more candid about the fact that the laws had been violated," Foley said on NBC's "Today" show.
Rep. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), who commented that Reagan's promise to obey the law was "sad," also said the affair has been too serious to erase with a single speech. "People died with the weapons that were sold, the national security has been compromised and the law has been broken," he said.