In a new move to assert greater congressional control over U.S. foreign policy is expected to approve the successors to President Carter's national security affairs adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, subject to Senate approval.
That is the intent of an amendment offered by Sen. Edward Zorinsky (D-Neb) to a routine bill authorizing the State Department's operations in the next fiscal year. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the bill Tuesday.
Zorimsky, in a reference to the national security adviser's great influences in foreign policy decisions, says: "It's clear that we have two secretaries of state-one in the State Departmen and one in the White house. One of them already is accountable to the Senate through the confirmation process, and it's time we made the other one accountable, too."
His campaign to give Congress a firmer grip over the director and staff of the National Security Council has gone almost unnoticed by the press and public. But congressional sources say the amendment has touched quite a few sympathetic nerves in the Senate, and they predict it will pass handily.
That prospect has caused the White House to sound all of the usual alarms about executive privilege, seperation of powers and the president's constitutional responsibility for the conduct of foreign policy. These arguments mean that the White House wants to keep as much distance as possible between its internal workings and the scrutiny of the Senate.
However, what has coused so much concern at the White House also appears to have sparked some secret glee elsewhere in the executive branch's foreign policy machinery-for example, at the State Department.
As a loyal Carter asministration team player, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance has called the Zorinsky amendment "unneccessary" and has ordered his lobbyist into the effort to get derailed.
But it's no secret that relations between Vance's troops and the "Little State Department" at the White House aren't always as congenial as they're to be. Although no one admits it publicly, there probably wouoldn't be too many tears shed in the State Department if the Senate crimps the NSC's style a bit.
In fact, the steady growth in the power and influence of the national security adviser's office triggered the Zorinsky amendments. When Henry A. Kissinger held the job under President Nixton, he had a final word over foreign policy greater than that of the secretary of state.
In the Carter administration, the balance has tilted back toward Vance and the State Department. But Brzezinski also looms very large on the foreign policy scene, and that has made him an inviting target for senators frustrated by their inability to give him the sort of scrutiny that the Constitution allows in the case of Vance.
Zorinsky, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, says he came up with his amendment after the NSC staff used the cloak of executive privilege to rebuff his efforts to obtain information on administration policy toward Latin America.
In particular, he cites Brzezinski's refusal to give the committee an internal NSC memo allegedly advocating putting pressure on the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support a nuclear nonproliferation treaty in Latin America and a study on future U.S.-Mexican relations.
"These are matters the Senate is entitled to know about if it's going to exercise its oversight responsibilities," Zorinsky said, "and I think the time has come to force better cooperation by giving the Senate the right to pass on whoever holds this position in the future."
Specifically, his amendment would change the status of the national security adviser and his deputy from jobs that exist at the discretion of the president to positions created by legislative mandate. That would require a president wishing to fill these positions in the future to submit his nominees to the "advice and consent" of the Senate.
In its efforts to prevent that from happening, the administration first tried to find a senator willing to offer a counter-amendment. But, congressional sources say, the administration now has become reconciled to losing the skirmish in the Senate and is looking instead to head it off at some pass farther down the road.
Specifically, the sources add, the administration's hope is to enlist the support of Rep. Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, first to keep anythink like the Zorinsky amendment out of the House version of the bill and then to kill the amendment when the House and Senate versions are reconciled by a conference committee.
But Zorinsky says he has arranged to be a member of that conference committee, and adds, "Let them try."