Senate Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) said he may refuse to bring the judicial nomination of Daniel A. Manion to the Senate floor for the rest of the year and invoke a rare parliamentary procedure that would result in Manion's confirmation without another vote.
Walt Riker, a spokesman for Dole, said yesterday that keeping the controversial nomination off the floor is "a procedural option that's available to the majority leader and that we're looking at." He said no decision had been made.
Senate Democrats indicated that they would strongly protest any attempt to deny them a second vote on Manion, whose nomination to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has escalated into a major test of President Reagan's ability to win confirmation for his choices for the federal bench. Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.), a leading Manion opponent, said if that happened he could not rule out an effort to hold up the nominations of Chief Justice-designate William H. Rehnquist and Supreme Court nominee Antonin Scalia.
"My hope is it would not get entangled, but . . . we don't want to close any options," Simon said yesterday. "We will bring some leverage to bear in some fashion. . . . We really ought to have an up or down vote on this and not have it clouded."
The maneuvering by both sides reflects the closeness of the vote on Manion, a conservative Indiana lawyer. Opponents have charged that Manion, the son of the late John Birch Society leader Clarence Manion, is too inexperienced and too extreme to be a federal judge.
The Senate voted 48 to 46 to confirm Manion on June 26; Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) voted with Manion's supporters so he would have standing under Senate rules to move for reconsideration of the vote. Byrd made the switch to avert a 47-to-47 tie that would have been broken in Manion's favor by Vice President Bush.
The day's proceedings were marked by charges of misrepresentation and vote-trading. For example, Sen. Slade Gorton (R-Wash.) has said he agreed to vote for Manion after a White House official assured him of approval for a district court nominee that Gorton had been pushing in Washington state. And Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.) withdrew her vote against Manion after being told, erroneously, that Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.) wanted to vote for the nomination but could not make it to the floor. Goldwater declined to vote.
After the inconclusive tally, Democrats and Republicans agreed to delay a second vote on Manion until after the July 4th recess, which ends Monday. The question before the Senate would be a GOP motion to table Byrd's move to reconsider the earlier Manion vote.
Dole said in La Crosse, Wis., earlier this month that he did not know whether he had the votes to win another showdown on Manion.
"I'm the leader, and I'm not going to bring it up if I don't have the votes," Dole said, according to the La Crosse Tribune. "The Democrats thought they had it. . . . So we voted and they lost and now they want to vote again.
". . . I guess you just keep voting till you win," Dole said. "But they aren't going to win. One thing I can do is not bring the nomination up, and then when we adjourn he is confirmed." Such a move would make the earlier 48-to-46 vote for confirmation final.
Spokesman Riker said the Republicans think that they would win an up-or-down vote on Manion. But, he said, "as good sound strategy, we're looking at every option to confirm Mr. Manion. One option that's available would be to bring up the motion to reconsider and then adjourn."
People for the American Way, a liberal lobby that opposes Manion, unveiled a television ad campaign yesterday that criticizes the Senate's handling of the nomination. "This has tarnished the integrity of the Senate," said Anthony T. Podesta, the group's president. "To turn this into a 'yes' vote by a bunch of parliamentary tricks is an outrage." Sen. Dan Quayle (R-Ind.), Manion's chief supporter, has accused People for the American Way of opposing Manion on ideological grounds, saying that its advertising campaign is "offensive to thoughtful Americans."
Reagan told the New York Daily News Wednesday that "the attack on Manion is unfounded" and "based on a number of outright falsehoods."