Rep. Sam B. Hall Jr. (D-Tex.) was incorrectly identified as having voted "present" when the Speaker of the House was selected Thursday. That vote was cast by Rep. Ralph M. Hall (D-Tex.).
The Democratic-controlled House opened the 99th Congress yesterday in a sharply partisan atmosphere by voting 238 to 177 along party lines against seating the certified Republican winner of a contested House race in Indiana.
As members of the House rose to be sworn in shortly after noon, Republican Richard D. McIntyre was told to step aside until lawmakers could investigate his 35-vote margin of victory over Rep. Frank McCloskey (D-Ind.) in the 8th Congressional District. Recounts are under way. It was a preliminary skirmish in what is expected to be partisan warfare all year on issues ranging from spending cuts to the MX intercontinental ballistic missile.
At the same time, House Democrats were preparing for a major battle in their party caucus today over whether to strip Rep. Melvin Price (D-Ill.) of the chairmanship of the House Armed Services Committee.
Price, who is 80 and frail, is backed by the Democratic leadership, which is strongly committed to the seniority system. A group of younger Democrats is pushing to depose him for a more aggressive chairman. But after a day of rumors and intrigue, House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) made an emotional pitch for Price and his name was included on the list of committee chairmen to be submitted to the caucus of House Democrats today.
Party sources said it appeared Price might be defeated in the caucus, although such a move would be extremely unusual. The last such successful challenge occurred 10 years ago when three chairmen, viewed as being too authoritarian, were defeated. They included F. Edward Hebert (D-La.), who was removed from Armed Services, leaving the chairmanship to Price.
House Democrats and Republicans also tangled yesterday on rules drafted by the Democrats to run the House. Republicans accused the Democrats of denying the GOP proper representation on committees.
The Democrats, with 58 percent of the House seats, have assigned themselves 61 percent of the seats on the Appropriations Committee, 64 percent on the Ways and Means Committee, and 69 percent of the seats on the Rules Committee.
The Republican-led Senate opened its new session on a more harmonious note, with Vice President Bush presiding and new Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kans.) taking up the reins.
The Senate adopted a bipartisan resolution of support for the arms talks scheduled for next week in Geneva between the United States and the Soviet Union, and Dole and Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) announced the appointments of Sens. David F. Durenberger (R-Minn.) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) as the chairman and vice chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence.
In addition, the White House resubmitted the nomination of presidential counselor Edwin Meese III as attorney general, and Dole said President Reagan called him yesterday afternoon to request swift action on the potentially controversial appointment.
On the House side, where dozens of lawmakers showed up with children and grandchildren, O'Neill was elected speaker for his fifth and final two-year term. O'Neill has said he will retire from Congress in 1986.
As usual, the selection of speaker occurred on a party-line vote, with 173 House Republicans supporting Republican Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) and 246 Democrats voting for O'Neill. The House is controlled by the Democrats, 252 seats to the GOP's 182, with the Indiana seat now officially vacant. A number of House members were not present yesterday.
O'Neill, Michel and Rep. Sam B. Hall Jr. (D-Tex.), who campaigned for reelection on the promise that he would not support O'Neill for speaker, voted "present." Hall's vote was all that remained of a mini-rebellion among conservative Democrats that flared up against O'Neill's leadership after Reagan's landslide victory on Nov. 6.
O'Neill and Michel won standing ovations from both sides of the aisle after giving opening speeches that touched obliquely on the political and philosophical issues that divide them. From there, any hint of bipartisanship evaporated.
As soon as O'Neill was sworn in and the aisles cleared, Majority Leader James C. Wright Jr. (D-Tex.) rose to move that McIntyre be denied his seat, saying that nobody knows who is the real congressman from the 8th district of Indiana because a complete recount has not been done.
His proposal was greeted by boos from the Republicans, who moved that Richard Stallings, the Idaho Democrat who defeated Rep. George Hansen (R-Idaho) by about 170 votes, not be seated. Hansen was convicted in federal court of violating federal financial disclosure laws. He has appealed his conviction and has filed a challenge to Stallings' election.
In the Senate, Republicans agreed in principle to try to limit senators' committee assignments to two major and one minor committee and directed their leaders to pursue negotiations with Democrats on a final plan.
The plan for limitation of senators' committee assignments is part of a broader effort to try to improve the Senate's often-clogged operations