Two days ago the democratic Caucus of the Senate nominated Russell B. Long of Louisiana for another two years as chairman of the Finance Committee. In a secret ballot, the vote was 42 to 6, the closest vote on chairmen in the caucus.
Normally, caucus nominations are rubber-stamped by the full Senate by voice vote and without debate. But yesterday, Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W Va.) asked for a roll call on Long. The request appeared to be a challenge to the six who had opposed Long anonymously in caucus to come forward and reveal themselves by voting "no" on the floor."
But nobody came forward. In the first roll-call vote in memory on a committee championship. Long was approved, 60 to 0. Several senators whom reporters believed were among the six nay-sayers Thursday shouted "yes" yesterday in favor of Long as lustily as did Long's closest friends and associates.
In view of Long's great powers as chairman, nobody really expected anyone to vote against him publicly and risk his anger.
Long, smiling broadly in his seat, was heard to murmur to colleagues, "Do you think it would be okay for me to vote for myself?"
Bryd said he wanted at least one roll call on a chairmanship nomination to remind people that it is the whole Senate, not just the majority party caucus, which actually elects a member chairman. And he said he chose the Finance Committee chairmanship for the roll call because of newspaper stories which implied that Long dominated the committee too much, and which said Common Cause was drumming up caucus votes against him so that he would mend his ways.
The floor vote, he implied, would be a test of confidence in Long. Byrd said that if anyone wanted, they could nominate someone else right there on the Senate floor. No one wanted to do so.
All other chaimanship nominees were approved by voice vote.