WASHINGTON -- William Clark's nomination as interior secretary is snarled in a Senate fight over environmental issues, and he may not win confirmation before Congress adjourns for the year.
Senate Republican leader Howard Baker said Tuesday he will try to bring Clark's nomination up, possibly today, before Congress adjourns its session later this week for the year.
'What happens to it after that (depends on) whether we have a filibuster (on the nomination) or not,' Baker told reporters.
White House officials blame environmentalists for the trouble Clark is in, but Senate sources said they don't want approval of Clark interpreted as endorsement of the controversial policies of James Watt.
Watt resigned Oct. 9 amid a furor over a glib remark he made about 'a black, a woman ... two Jews and a cripple' on a coal leasing advisory committee.
Following a meeting with President Reagan Tuesday, Baker said Clark's nomination is 'in some trouble,' and may not get confirmation before Congress adjourns, expected later this week.
The 'trouble' is a resolution, opposed by Baker but supported by more than 40 senators, instructing Clark to 'undertake immediate actions to ensure that the policies and programs of the Department of the Interior conform with the expressed will of Congress.'
A Democratic source told United Press International Tuesday if Baker doesn't allow a vote on the resolution, it will be difficult to bring up Clark's nomination.
But a Republican leadership source said, 'The leadership is not going to accept that resolution' because it would be unprecedented 'to tie the hands of a new secretary.'
'The votes to confirm Clark are out there, but it very much looks like a filibuster situation,' the source said.
Baker told reporters Reagan could make an interim appointment of Clark if he is not confirmed before Congress adjourns. That would let him serve as interior secretary during Congress's absence, but Reagan would have to resubmit Clark's nomination when Congress returns Jan. 23.
The resolution was introduced by Sens. J. Bennett Johnston, D-La., Bob Packwood, R-Ore., and Alan Cranston, D-Calif., because Clark was vague about what policies he would pursue when questioned during confirmation hearings by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Johnston said Tuesday he was 'concerned that without some expression of the Senate such as this, Judge Clark's confirmation could be interpreted as a vote for continuation of all of the department's present programs and policies.
'That is certainly not the impression that I want to leave with either the president or Mr. Clark,' he said.