The Senate Labor Committee voted yesterday to investigate why the FBI withheld information about Labor Secretary Raymond J. Donovan during confirmation hearings last year.
Committee members approved, 11 to 0, a resolution authorizing staff employes to take sworn statements about the Donovan confirmation proceedings from the FBI and other Reagan administration officials.
The vote came in an early-morning session designed to bypass a procedural ploy by Sen. John P. East (R-N.C.) that stalled a committee vote Wednesday. Later yesterday, East and Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.), who also strongly opposed the investigation, voted against the resolution.
Committee Chairman Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said he believed the committee "can put the Donovan issue to bed" by questioning just three people: Francis M. Mullen Jr., FBI executive assistant director, who had assured the committee that FBI wiretaps of organized crime contained "absolutely nothing pertaining to Schiavone Construction," Donovan's company; Anthony Adamski Jr., the FBI agent who headed the investigation, and White House Counsel Fred F. Fielding, who received the FBI background reports on Donovan.
Hatch said he hoped to complete the investigation before the end of August.
At a heated session Wednesday, East and Denton charged that the resolution, which gives committee staffers power to conduct questioning on their own so long as a senator is present at the beginning of the deposition, would turn the staff into "surrogate senators."
They also argued that the inquiry was outside the labor panel's jurisdiction, and should be conducted by the Senate Judiciary subcommittee that oversees the FBI.
Hatch said, "It was our committee that was involved, our committee that did not receive the reports, our committee that approved the nomination."
The resolution was blocked Wednesday when East invoked a rule barring committee proceedings without the unanimous consent of the Senate if the full body has been in session for two hours and a member has objected to continuing committee proceedings.
Hatch recessed Wednesday's session and scheduled an early-morning meeting yesterday well before the Senate convened. "I doubt whether anyone will show up at 8:30 except for me," he said at the time.
But Hatch was able to assemble seven members--enough to take a vote--and enough additional proxy votes to make a clear majority of the 16-member panel. Neither East nor Denton attended the meeting.