House Republicans yesterday vented their bitterness over the outcome of a disputed election in Indiana's 8th Congressional District with a series of parliamentary maneuvers and delaying tactics that knotted the House and finally forced Democratic leaders to adjourn the session.
The disruption was a signal that the House could be on the verge of a serious breakdown that may threaten President Reagan's legislative program and Democratic priorities during the rest of the 99th Congress.
"It is as bad a scene as I've seen up here in my 16 years," House Minority Whip Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said.
"It's clear to me that further effort to proceed . . . is not going to be possible," House Majority Whip Thomas S. Foley (D-Wash.) said in halting the day's proceedings. "The business of this day and this week has been ended for any constructive purpose."
The united Republicans called it "sample Thursday," saying it was an example of how they could disrupt the House if they tried. They promised more of the same next week if Democrats try to seat incumbent Frank McCloskey, declared a four-vote winner over Republican Richard D. McIntyre. Republicans are pushing for a new election.
"Next week has the potential to be a pretty awful week," one Republican campaign official said, warning that the controversy "will affect the way the House does business for the next year and a half."
"This is like kindergarten," Rep. David R. Obey (D-Wis.) said as Republicans called for repeated roll-call votes, voted on paper rather than electronically, raised points of order and trooped to the well of the House to deliver one-minute speeches.
Among the day's casualties was a resolution urging Reagan to reconsider his trip to Bitburg cemetery in West Germany. Lott objected to consideration of the resolution even though its sponsor, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Dante B. Fascell (D-Fla.), angrily said it had been cleared by Republican leaders.
Republicans met in a closed morning session to approve floor tactics employed to disrupt the House, then marched out to the Capitol steps to pose for a group photograph with McIntyre. There, they playfully broke into a chorus of "We Shall Overcome," at which point a high school chorus from Pennsylvania serenaded them with "The Star Spangled Banner."
Later, Rep. Parren J. Mitchell (D-Md.) ridiculed the Republicans for singing the song used by civil rights protesters in the 1960s. "Of course, you didn't know the words," he said.
Republicans said they hoped their tactics would convince Democrats that the GOP is serious in objecting to the way the final vote recount was done and would force some Democrats to support a motion next week to vacate the seat, the first step toward a special election. "Our gamble, frankly, is that we can find 35 or 36 Democrats who will stand up and vote their beliefs," Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said.
McCloskey was declared the winner by a House task force that oversaw a recount conducted by the General Accounting Office. The task force voted -- 2 to 1, on party lines -- not to count about 30 absentee ballots that the GOP said should have been counted.
Republicans won approval from House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) for a closed-circuit television showing of a six-hour tape of the task force's last meeting.
A 17-minute version of the proceedings, paid for and edited by the National Republican Congressional Committee, has been shown to Republicans this week and fueled their anger. Democratic leaders have said they are particularly incensed about the edited tape.
At their conference yesterday, Republicans ordered the campaign committee to prepare commercials to be aired, possibly this weekend, in selected Democratic districts nationwide. They also began to explore legal avenues to force Democrats not to seat McCloskey.
Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) said GOP leaders recognize that their tactics threaten the president's legislative priorities but are intent on registering their protest.