The Senate, reluctant to trade a hallowed tradition for streamlined procedures, refused yesterday to clamp down on the right of members to attach extraneous provisions to legislation pending on the floor.
A tightening of the Senate's "germaneness" rule, which has been honored largely in the breach, had been proposed as part of rules changes that would accompany an experiment with televising Senate procedures.
But it ran into objections from many senators, largely on the philosophical fringes of the chamber, who complained that it would eliminate the last recourse of a political minority to get debate and votes on issues that were otherwise sidetracked.
"What is at stake here is the right of a minority, even a tiny minority, even one senator, to raise an issue," said Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.), a conservative who, in league with liberal Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.), led the fight against the change.
The Senate voted 60 to 37 to strike the germaneness rule change from a package of changes in procedures that was attached to the television proposal earlier in the week by Majority Leader Robert J. Dole (R-Kan.) and Minority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.).
But Dole said later yesterday that an accord was near on a modified package of rules changes that could pave the way for televising Senate sessions starting in April with a trial run of live radio broadcasts and closed-circuit television. He said he was "more certain than ever" that the television proposal will pass, possibly today.
The rules changes were demanded by many senators as a prerequisite to television coverage because Senate proceedings -- featuring lengthy quorum calls, debates on extraneous issues and endless filibusters -- would not look particularly snappy on the tube.
The proposed changes included new curbs on filibusters as well as a stricter germaneness rule under which it would take a vote by two-thirds of the Senate to allow consideration of nongermane amendments once the rule was invoked. Currently, it takes only a majority of those voting to allow consideration of a nongermane amendment.