Sen. Packwood loses standoff Senate backs diary subpoena

November 03, 1993|By Karen Hosler | Karen Hosler,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- After two full days of debate, the Senate voted overwhelmingly last night to support a broad subpoena for thousands of pages of Bob Packwood's private diaries.

The final tally was 94 to 6, with four Republicans and one Democrat joining Mr. Packwood in his bid to withhold from the Senate ethics committee material he fears may be used against him to prove unethical or illegal conduct.

In the final hours of the often fractious deliberations, Mr. Packwood's colleagues indicated that they had lost their sympathy for him.

Most outraged was Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, the Senate's senior Democrat, who suggested that Mr. Packwood's actions had been so offensive to the Senate that he should resign.

"None of us is without flaws," Mr. Byrd said at the end of an impassioned criticism of Mr. Packwood. "But when those flaws damage the institution of the Senate, it is time to have the grace to go."

Following the vote, Mr. Packwood told reporters, "I didn't know what to expect." But he and his lawyers claimed they would have better luck when the fight over the diaries goes before a federal court in Washington.

The decisive vote approved a resolution giving the ethics committee the authority it requested to seek a federal court ruling to enforce a subpoena for Mr. Packwood's diaries.

Mr. Packwood refused to respond directly to Mr. Byrd's demand for his resignation, but he said, "I would hope that the exercise of my constitutional rights is not perceived as un-American."

The five-term Republican was defended by several of his GOP colleagues, who argued that the sexual harassment charges against him were fueling a political correctness crusade that amounted to an unconstitutional intrusion into his privacy.

"This is not about whether the Senate finally 'gets it,' " said Sen. Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming, the Senate Republican whip. "I get it. It's about equal justice. . . . It's about fairness . . . to all involved in these difficult proceedings."

The 94-to-6 vote followed the defeat of two attempts by Mr. Packwood and his allies to win approval for a compromise limiting the amount of the diary material sought by the ethics committee to investigate allegations of sexual and ethical misconduct.

"I would like this to be over with," Mr. Packwood told his colleagues as he arrived on the floor with the detached manner of a defense attorney seeking a plea bargain.

"This Senate can get the answer and this committee can get the answer to every conceivable charge or thought they have about any violations I may have committed without having access to all of the diaries."

But Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat, called the compromise "a cover-up amendment."

And the ethics committee, which rejected a offer from Mr. Packwood yesterday morning, contended that he was asking for a privilege that would not be available to other Americans in similar circumstances.

"It would have been different . . . it would have been much different if the senator hadn't refused to comply with" the committee original request for information, said ethics committee Chairman Richard H. Bryan, a Nevada Democrat. "He's crossed the Rubicon."

By early last night, Mr. Packwood's first attempt at limiting access to the diaries was withdrawn without a vote, and a second proposal was defeated, 77 to 23.

"The committee asked Senator Packwood for relevant information eight months ago," noted Sen. Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican. "If he had given it to us then, we wouldn't be here. . . . This is about information Senator Packwood wished to withhold."

Mr. Packwood initially proposed to submit the diary entries to an independent hearing officer who would pick out material relevant to the committee's initial investigation into sexual misconduct as well as new charges that the senator pressured lobbyists to offer employment to his ex-wife.

Those charges were first aired at Mr. Packwood's divorce proceedings several years ago, but the committee found references to them in the 1989 and 1990 entries.

The second offer would have simply required Mr. Packwood to submit to the committee all diary entires that are relevant, but leaving it to him to determine what is relevant.

Other Republican senators joined Mr. Simpson in taking to task two Democratic women who appeared to suggest that Mr. Packwood is guilty of the sexual harassment charges, and that a vote to reject the subpoena would be a refusal to act on those offenses.

Sen. Patty Murray of Washington touched off this controversy Monday night when she told her colleagues a vote against the committee's request "sends a clear message . . . to every woman in this country: If you are harassed, keep quiet, say nothing: the cards are stacked against your ever winning."

"That is not what this debate at this particular moment is about," responded Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum, R-Kan.

"This is really more about our own thoughts on the work of the ethics committee."

Ethics committee members argued that Mr. Packwood had already allowed them to review some 5,000 pages of the diary under an agreement that excluded only material dealing with family, legal and medical matters.

Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, one of three Democrats on the ethics committee, demanded to know why Mr. Packwood "continues to refuse to honor the original agreement? . . . Haven't your lawyers explained to you that there was an agreement?"

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.