Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said yesterday that the White House hadn't consulted the Senate leadership on any of its actions in the Iran crisis but had agreed to do so in the future after Byrd called the president on the matter Friday.
Byrd told reporters at his weekly news briefing that he was surprised and somewhat annoyed that, during the whole period of the Iran situation, the White House had neither consulted with Senate leaders nor initiated any briefings on what was going on.
He stressed that senators wanted a chance to have some input into decision-making and not just be passively briefed. But he said he had no criticism of actions taken in the in the crisis.
On another subject, Byrd said he still hopes to get the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with the Soviet Union onto the Senate floor this year and perhaps to a final vote before winding up the first session of the 96th Congress, but if a final vote can't be reached, it would occur early next session.
He said he didn't want to delay a vote too long lest the treaty become too involved in 1980 presidential politics.
Byrd said that, to fill the Iran information void, he had asked Vice President Mondale to get Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance or other top policy figures to brief senators on the crisis. He said this had occurred on three occasions and "those briefings were helpful." But said there should be consultation and not just at the request of the leadership, but on an ongoing basis.
He said consultation, as well as briefings, were especially important in view of the possibility of misunderstandings about what needed to be done, and that he had discussed the situation with about eight to 10 colleagues.
They were surprised at the lack of White House contact, he said.
Byrd said, "I think it was just an inadvertency" on the part of the White House, but he telephoned the president Friday on the matter and Carter agreed that there should be daily contacts during the week.
Those participating will be himself, the minority leader, Howard H. Baker Jr. (R.-Tenn.), Minority Whip Ted Stevens (R.-Alaska), Foreign relations Committee Chairman Frank Church (D.-Idaho) and senior majority member Jacob K. Javits (R.N.Y.).
Byrd emphasized that there is a difference between briefings and consultation, which means giving the senators a chance to offer advice of what should be done.
He said he assumed that the contact would be with "somebody who knows what he's talking about. . . Mr. Vance, or it might be Mr. [Warren M.] Christopher," who is deputy secretary of the State Department.
He said Vance had called him yesterday at 6 a.m. with news that he expected the Iranians to release a dozen women and blacks who were being held in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
He said he favors action to make the United States less vulnerable, like preparing a standby rationing plan for fuel, feels nothing Congress has done ties the White House hands from real action in a crisis, and added that "it wasn't Congress that put more people back there" in the U.S. Embassy in Iran after first shrinking the work-force there.
Byrd also said he supports the admission of the shah to the United States for medical treatment as a matter of humane action. "If it were the Ayatollah Khomeini himself and he had a. . . terminal illness, I would have no objection to his coming."