WASHINGTON — The White House today denied that it was the Administration's idea in the first place to ask Soviet Mikhail S. Gorbachev to become the first Communist Party head to address a joint meeting of Congress.
Faced with a GOP revolt, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said, "We think there probably is a better forum" for Gorbachev than a joint meeting. Some lawmakers have threatened to stage a noisy walkout if Gorbachev appears.
Fitzwater flatly denied that the White House ever asked Congress for a joint meeting for the Soviet leader.
But aides to House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) said "a White House liaison officer" had requested that Gorbachev be invited to address a joint meeting of Congress, and that Wright and Senate Majority leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) had set the time for 10 a.m. on Dec. 9.
"A request for a visit by a leader is made by the White House and then the Speaker and the majority leader come up with the time when it would be best to do this," said Charmayne Marsh, Wright's spokeswoman.