WASHINGTON — The Senate broke a filibuster today against a watered-down version of the War Powers Act that would give lawmakers a vote on Reagan Administration policy in the Persian Gulf.
The 67-28 tally, more than enough to pass the bill in a direct vote, put the Senate into no more than 30 hours of debate on a proposal by Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.).
Postpones Bork Debate
Today's action on war powers postponed the start of floor debate on the Supreme Court nomination of Robert H. Bork.
The Byrd-Warner proposal would require a presidential report on gulf policy in 60 days and a vote on an unspecified resolution on the policy 30 days later. The resolution could be anything from invocation of the War Powers Act to an expression of support or concern about the policy.
It was offered as an alternative to efforts to get the Senate to say it wants the 1973 War Powers Resolution invoked. That law requires a report to Congress from the President within 48 hours of U.S. forces facing hostilities. And if Congress neither declares war nor approves an extension in 60 days, the forces would have to be withdrawn.
"It seems to me the Administration should want Congress in on the action. Congress is not going to pull U.S. forces out of the Persian Gulf," Byrd argued to the Senate.
And Warner said adoption of their proposal, which also expresses support for a continued U.S. presence in the gulf, could ease uncertainty in financial markets because of the importance of gulf oil to the world economy.
But Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.), noting that nothing in the measure hinted at what the resolution that could be offered in 90 days would say, said, "The language in here's rather useless."
Supreme Court nominee Bork is virtually certain to lose when his nomination does come to a vote, and the Senate action in taking up another controversial matter will further delay the Reagan Administration's efforts to win confirmation for a successor nominee.
No Other Matters
The war powers issue is to be debated under rules that prohibit bringing up other matters unless unanimous consent is given by the Senate--a move that is unlikely.
Senators from both parties were discussing the nomination today at separate policy meetings. Fifty-four members of the 100-member chamber have said they will oppose Bork.
Byrd has been growing impatient with Bork's GOP supporters, who have demanded time to make their case and rebuffed his calls for a quick vote. Byrd even hinted that he might move to table the nomination--in other words, take it off the agenda.