The nuclear freeze issue will be fought again on many battlefields in November, but nowhere perhaps more sharply than in Pennsylvania, the state whose delegation killed the freeze in the ding-dong House battle last week.
In the final moments of the 8 1/2-hour debate, Pennsylvania produced a record number of reversals, defections and shocks. Two Republicans who cosponsored the freeze resolution, James K. Coyne and Lawrence Coughlin, went down the aisle and switched their votes in the seconds when it seemed the freeze had won. Immediately afterward, a third Pennsylvania Republican cosponsor, William F. Clinger Jr., put the Broomfield resolution--the Reagan version of a freeze; that is, after an arms buildup--over the top. Broomfield won, 204 to 202.
Pennsylvania also produced the only "present" vote in the drama. Rep. William F. Goodling, a Republican, voted for the freeze in the Foreign Affairs Committee. But on the big day, he did not.
His explanation is original, and, he admits, hard to follow. He voted present on the House floor early on, so his people would know he was on hand for the great occasion.
"But if . . . the only vote I got to cast was on Broomfield, I did not want to vote against it if it turned out to be the only 'freeze' vote available. I went down in the well waiting to see if it came within one vote so I could cast the vote that would make the tie, that would kill the resolution. But I never got the chance, because it never came within one vote."
Another Pennsylvania surprise for freeze proponents came from still another Republican cosponsor, Marc L. Marks, who last March took the floor to berate President Reagan for smearing European anti-nuclear marches as "a communist-inspired plot." On Thursday, Marks declared that the president and his men "have spoken rationally and reasonably about their desire to limit the arms race" and voted for Broomfield.
Reagan, in the words of one Republican, "did a full-court press with the A-Squad" on the freeze. He knew that a victory for freeze advocates would be a clear statement that the people's House did not believe his lately adopted arms-reduction rhetoric.
At an Oval Office meeting the morning before the vote, 10 wavering Republicans were faced with the entire array of the foreign policy might of the administration--the vice president, the secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, not to mention the president's domestic operatives, Edwin Meese III and Michael K. Deaver.
The president did his most successful digging for votes in the Pennsylvania delegation. Someone must have told him that convictions do not run deep in the Keystone ranks, and that a simple plea to ask for a vote "if needed" would pay off. Like the rest of the Northeast, Pennsylvania is freeze country, but, for Pennsylvania's representatives, when it comes to a contest between their constituents and their president, it is not really a fair fight.
Jim Leach of Iowa, the only member of the Republican Policy Committee to vote against Broomfield, tried to warn his colleagues that they would pay in November for non-support of the freeze. Women, he said, are especially dubious about Reagan as dove, and his party loses younger women on abortion, older women on Social Security and thinking women on the nuclear buildup.
Leach's colleagues rejoined that they could present their votes for Broomfield as pro-freeze.
He told them that the grass-roots freeze movement, which six months ago did not dare bring its resolution to the floor, can tell the difference--and will make it stick. He cited those who have told pollster Lou Harris they would vote against a congressman on the single issue of his stand on the freeze.
That matter will be tested in Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District, a hotbed of freeze sentiment in both parties, where Peter H. Kostmayer, a pro-freeze liberal Democrat, is attempting to unseat Coyne, who unseated him two years ago in the Reagan sweep.
Coyne's performance was a marvel of swift change. On the morning of the vote he was heard on a local radio station boasting of being one of the first five Republicans to sign on to the real freeze resolution. On the floor, he voted for it in the first go-round, then switched. By Saturday, he had a whole new view of the matter. He told the Bucks County Courier-Times he had completely changed his view. He charged that Kostmayer is "allied with an ultra-liberal, left-wing movement that wants to relinquish responsibility for maintaining our strength in the face of Soviet aggression."
Kostmayer is delighted. "The freeze was not an issue up until now because we agreed on it. Now it is, not just in itself, but for the way Coyne handled it. He crumbled under political pressure from the White House."
The polls show Coyne and Kostmayer running neck and neck. If the nuclear freeze tips it Kostmayer's way, politicians will have to rethink their dismissal of the freeze issue as the latest fad from the "quiche-and-chablis set."