Members of the House Committee on Assassinations were preparing last night to offer a compromise resolution aimed at reviving their stalled inquiry into the murders of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
The proposal, drafted to allay the fears of congressional critics such as Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.), is expected to be offered at meeting of the House Rules Committee today.
Edwards, who has objected sharply to the scope and some of the proposed methods of the investigation, declined to comment on the details of the proposed compromise, but confirmed that he intends to support it.
"There have been major improvements in the bill" re-establishing the committee, Edwards said last night.
The compromise would impose some limits on the broadly stated authority the committee has been seeking to investigate other deaths that might be related to the assassinations. It would also specifically bind the committee to the rules of the House, call for the adoption of additional procedural safeguards, and limit the committee's authority to investigate the FBI and the Central Intelligence Agency.
The committee, however, may be forced to clear still other hurdles before it gets back into business.
Rep. Richard Bolling (D-Mo.), ranking Democrat on the Rules Committee, said he felt "there's a good chance" the Rules Committee will approve a compromise resolution today, but it will first have to decide whether to add any additional caveats. He said the Rules Committee has yet to make up its mind "whether the whole thing is manageable" and, more particularly, whether a spending ceiling should be set in the enabling resolution.
The assassinations committee's spending would normally be the subject of subsequent legislation, but chief counsel Richard A. Sprague's proposed budget of $6.5 million for this year alone touched off a furor that has yet to die down.
Whenever the bill reaches the House floor, Rep. Tim Wirth (D-Colo.) also intends to demand the answers to questions he has voiced about Sprague's judgment and background as a prosecutor in Philadelphia. Other critics, such as Rep. Robert E. Bauman (R-Md.), have urged Sprague's dismissal.
Sprague apparently hopes to stay on. In a statement yesterday, he said that his "first priority . . . is to the commitment I have made to the House of Representatives and the Select Committee on Assassinations as its Chief counsel and director."
The statement was issued in connection with the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's reversal last week of the murder conviction of former United Mine Workers President W.A. (Tony) Boyle, which Sprague had secured as special prosecutor for Washington County, Pennsylvania, a position he still holds.
Sprague announced that he would file a petition for reconsideration of the state Supreme Court's decision, but added that "it is premature at this time to take up the consideration" of any role for him in a new trial "if one is to be held."
Boyle had been convicted in the 1969 murders of UMW rival Joseph A. (Jock) Yablonski and members of his family.