House Republicans, expressing outrage about what they termed the "stolen election" in Indiana's 8th Congressional District, yesterday began considering "extraordinary" measures to disrupt the House in a protest against the expected seating of Democrat Frank McCloskey.
The disruption started immediately as Republicans organized a series of speeches designed to keep the House in session all night. Earlier, 111 Republicans failed to show up for routine approval of the previous day's journal and 53 others voted "no."
Other options under consideration, many discussed during a 2 1/2-hour closed meeting of the House Republican Conference, included tactics to force delays or confusion, non-participation in committee or subcommittee meetings, walkouts and even civil disobedience.
"People want to shut down the House," one senior Republican said late yesterday. Several Republicans reportedly said during yesterday's meeting they wanted to push for a motion to expel Rep. Leon E. Panetta (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Task Force that oversaw the recount in Indiana, for violating the Constitution, according to one member present.
Democrats dismissed a Repubican's complaint as "crocodile tears" over losing a seat they thought they had won. They asserted that the recount was conducted fairly and properly and that the Republicans were seizing on last-minute technicalities to gain a seat. McCloskey was declared the winner over Republican Richard McIntyre by four votes by the House Task Force after a recount conducted by the General Accounting Office.
McIntyre had been certified the winner by Indiana election officials after an earlier recount.
Yesterday, on a 2-to-1 party line vote following several shouting matches, the task force certified McCloskey's four-vote margin and recommended that the House Administration Committee send a motion to the floor to seat him. A Republican motion asking the House to declare this seat vacant was defeated.
An attempt to seat McCloskey is expected to come next week. Democrats, predicting victory, said some colleagues who had supported the Republicans in earlier votes are now likely to support McCloskey.
The anger among House Republicans goes well beyond the outcome of the Indiana race, however. It reflects the frustration many Republicans have felt since the last election over the way the chamber is being run by the Democrats.
Just last week, Republicans protested a Democratic leadership decision to pull back a resolution condemning the Soviet Union for the killing of a U.S. Army major in East Germany and for speeding up a vote on aid to rebels in Nicaragua.
"We don't think this is ordinary political baloney or mischievousness," said Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.). "We think this is the Constitution itself."
"I think we ought to go to war," said Rep. Richard Cheney (R-Wyo.), regarded as one of the more moderate members of the leadership. He added later, "There's unanimity. We need bold and dramatic action."
Republican members yesterday approved a resolution offered by Frenzel and strongly endorsed by House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel (R-Ill.) urging their leaders to seek a meeting with House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) to protest the vote count.
Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) said Republicans would express to O'Neill their "political and moral outrage at the outright theft of the seat in the 8th District of Indiana."
President Reagan, in a telephone call to McIntyre yesterday afternoon, called the outcome a "damned robbery," according to one Republican. McIntyre, speaking to the president in front of reporters, said, "It was much more blatant than people thought it would be. It's important we stop this so it will never happen again."
What one House leader described as the "poisonous atmosphere" was evident throughout yesterday's meeting of the House Task Force, as Rep. William M. Thomas (R-Calif.), the lone Republican on the panel, repeatedly protested the handling of ballots and complained about the Democrats' tactics.
He charged that Democrats had allowed certain unnotarized absentee ballots to be counted while failing to count other similar ballots. Democrats said the ballots not counted had been ruled invalid by Indiana election clerks and accused Thomas of trying to distort the record. "You're trying to be tricky . . . cute," Panetta charged at one point when Thomas was sharply questioning the election official who headed the recount staff.
"Do I at least have the ability to ask a question without you voting 2 to 1 on how I'm supposed to ask it?" Thomas responded.
Later Panetta accused Thomas of raising the absentee ballot issue only because McIntyre lost.
"You got to the bottom line," Panetta said. "Your man didn't win."
Thomas angrily replied that the Democrats "never finished the process. You quit when your man was ahead."