Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Vice President Walter Mondale flattly denied Wednesday night that he had struck up a deal with Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) to end the Senate gas fillibuster or that he had discussed his controversial performance with President Carter prior Monday's Senate session.
"Nope," said Mondale, standing on the veranda of the Vice President's house awaiting the arrival of guests for a dinner honoring Speaker of the House Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill of Massachusetts, "the only arrangement between Byrd and me was that he asked me to come up to the Hill at 11 o'clock Monday morning. I was advised of what inquiries were at hand, and my staff and I worked on them before I went up. And as far as the President is concerned, well, all I told him was that I was going up to the Hill."
Asked why he had done what he did, Mondale defended himself by saying he had acted properly within the framework of Rule 22 - the rule to cut off filibuster and prevent further dilatory action - adding that he has been one of the strongest advocates for reform of that rule.
As presiding officer of the Senate, Mondale recognized only Byrd as the Majority Leader called up the filibusters' 33 amendments, which Mondale then ruled out of order one by one. The ploy touched off bedlam on the Senate floor with senators shouting outrage.
The Mondale garden dinner for O'Neill was called for 7 p.m. But because the House didn't adjourn until 7:15, everybody - including the guest of honor - was late. "Only in Washington could this happen," moaned Joan Mondale, pacing the veranda in her Eleanor Brenner beige blouse and longe beige wool skirt with matching shawl.
But when guests finally did begin straggling in, it was clear that for once Washington women had taken the word "informal" seriously. Those who weren't wearing pantsuits or slacks and sweaters were carrying coats or shawls to fight off the cold night air under the big red and white-striped tent, itself equipped with heaters.
As for the men, Rep. Michael Harrington (D-Mass.) arrived carrying his newspapers and homework under his arm, while Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) showed up in a denim suit, causing Mondale to quip: "Hey, Charlie, you forgot where you're going - you've still got on your cowboy suit."
Several of the guests - most of whom either worked for O'Neill or are House members - chided the Vice President on his Senate performance Monday, causing Mondale to do some fast filibustering of his own.
Press members present were roped off from the intimate gathering, and only allowed to stay until O'NeiLL arrived, carrying his tie in his hand. "You told me to come very casual," said the Speaker as he grabbed Mondale's hand. So on the way over I had to borrow this," he said, putting on his tie as he stood talking to the Vice President.
Under the tent, tables of 10 had centerpieces with crudite arrangements surrounded by hurricane lamps. The Irish Breakdown provided music. The Massachusetts-oriented menu, dubbed an Irish clambake by O'Neill, consisted of seafood bisque, steamed clams, lobster, sausages, corn on the cob, baked potatoes, eggs and apple and cherry pie.
Meanwhile, Rep. Sonny Montgomery (D-Miss) said he had no problems whatsoever with Mondale's Senate performance. "I support what he did. Business as usual had to go on. Besides, it sure doesn't hurt me to support the Vice President, does it?"