The White House has decided not to accept the Senate Armed Services Committee's invitation to send supporters of Paul C. Warnke to argue with his critics before the generally hostile committee today.
Committee Chairman John C. Stennis (D-Miss.) was notified of the decision by Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.) who consulted with the White House.
Hart said yesterday that the White House thinks Warnke effectively made the case for his nomination to head the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and be the chief U.S. strategic arms negotiator during two days of testimony last week. Therefore, the White House decided there was no reason to find surrogates to carry Warnke's colors in today's hearing.
The hearing - unusual in that the Armed Services committee does not have jurisdiction over Warnke's nomination - was scheduled because Warnke's opponents requested time for advocates of their views to testify. Hart asked that equal time be reserved for Warnke supporters.
Stennis announced last Wednesday that two witnesses on each side would appear at a one-day hearing. He said that Hart and Sen. Dale Bumpers (D. Ark.) had been asked to consult with the administration about the selection of the two pro-Warnke witnesses.
Although the committee has not given public notice of any witnesses, it appeared yesterday that Adm. Thomas Moorer, former chairman Joint Chiefs of the Staff, and Paul H. Nitz, former under secretary of defense, would testify against Warnke.
Nitze testified in opposition to the nomination at the Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearings. The Foreign Relations Committee overwhelmingly approved Warnke, and the nomination is expected to come up for consideration by the full Senate late this week.
Several opponents have said they will seek a lengthy debate on the Senate floor and Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) has declined to rule out the possibility of a filibuster.
No one in the Senate doubts that Warnke would win a majority. Warnke supporters who have counted votes believe there will be slightly fewer than 30 votes against him.
President Carter has given Warnke his full support, calling his confirmation "crucial" to his administration. Carter has telephoned at least a dozen senators urging their support.
At least one of those called, Sen. Harrison H. Schmitt (R-N.M.), was not swayed.Schmitt announced last week that he would vote against Warnke because of a widespread perception that Warnke would not take a strong enough bargaining position with the Soviets.
This was a major theme of the Armed Services Committee questioning of Warnke last week. In those two days, the committee members received from Warnke repeated statements of his awareness of the need to be a tough negottiator and for the United States not to allow the Soviet Union superiority in strategic weapons.
Many of the committee members, however, remain convinced that the general perception of Warnke as too dovish makes him unfit for the job. Some accused him of having hardened his positions only to ease his Senate confirmation.