The Senate, pushed by conservative senators, unexpectedly postponed action for a day on a resolution supporting the informal extension of the U.S.-Soviet strategic arms pact which expired yesterday.
"It's unbelievable 100 responsible men can't do something on time," Sen. Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.) cried in dismay as the Senate bogged down in parliamentary wrangling. "It discredits us completely. I hope we can act on this today."
The Soviets have already said they would observe an informal extension of the strategic arms limitation talks (SALT) pact after the expiration date.
The Senate leadership thought it had sufficient support to rush through the resolution supporting the administration's recent announcement the United States would comply with the expiring agreement while negotiations go forward on a new long-term accord on control of strategic weapons.
At the last moment yesterday morning, conservative Senators, including Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), James B. Allen (D-Ala.) and Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), raised objections and sought to amend the proposed resolution.
Sen. James McClure (R-Idhao) made the most telling objection when he noted the resolution has been reported out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last Friday without a formal quorum.
Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), floor manager of the bill, conceded the absence of a quorum but sought vainly to overcome the objections in insisting all committee members had been polled by telephone.
He asserted, too, the committee had met on the floor of the Senate yesterday morning and reaffirmed its approval.
But the chair ruled the resolution was defective and had to be returned to the committee for a formal vote. Senate floor action, under the rules, was delayed 24 hours.
The proposed resolution was conceived by Sen. Henry M. Jackson (D-Wash.), assistant majority leader Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) and others to take a account of Congress' prerogative under a 1961 law to review and approve of any accord limiting U.S. defenses.
A major purpose of the resolution is to reassert this congressional prerogative and express the sentiments of Congress without hampering U.S.-Soviet negotiations.
The concurrent resolution requires a House-vote.