Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.) was carried feet first into the Senate chamber by Capitol Police early today as Democrats ordered the arrest of absent senators in a dramatic filibuster showdown over a Democratic bill on spending in senatorial campaigns.

Packwood's arrest came after Democrats forced filibustering Republicans to hold the Senate floor in nonstop session through the night in an attempt to wear down their opposition to the bill.

But as midnight approached, Republicans called the Democrats' bluff by ordering a series of quorum calls and then vanishing, leaving only Minority Whip Alan K. Simpson (Wyo.) to hold the floor. Democrats were unable to muster a quorum on their own and, in a highly unusual move, voted to have the sergeant at arms arrest absent senators in a move to keep the Senate in session until a quorum of at least 51 senators could be obtained.

Shortly after midnight, a posse led by Sergeant at Arms Henry K. Giugni marched through the Capitol in pursuit of Republican senators, who apparently had gone into hiding, in a maneuver reminiscent of earlier filibusters in which senators sometimes registered in hotels under assumed names to avoid being rounded up for votes.

Later, the posse combed the Senate office buildings and found Packwood, who, as he noted after he was deposited on the Senate floor, "did not come fully voluntarily."

Within minutes, one of the absent Democrats, presidential candidate Paul Simon (Ill.), arrived and the Democrats had their quorum. Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) said he regretted the arrest but said he had no alternative and congratulated Packwood "on the fine spirit with which he accepted the inevitable."

Cots were set up for senators in rooms near the Senate chamber, and earlier in the day, Byrd had put the Republicans on notice that they would have to talk, not just threaten to talk, in order to sustain their stalling tactics against the campaign spending legislation.

"I have every intention of staying in continuous session until something happens, until something breaks," he said.

If the Republicans pause too long and lose control of the floor, Byrd warned, he will call for a vote on the bill. Democrats have the votes to pass the legislation but are at least five votes short of the 60 required to break a filibuster.

"It's going to be a long, long debate," Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) agreed as Republicans accepted the challenge and vowed to stand firm against what Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) described as a "silly exercise" that would impede rather than expedite chances of a compromise.

Republicans dismissed Democratic suggestions that they might succumb to public pressure. "We're absolutely solid," McConnell said.

"They {the Democrats} are just trying to attract some attention," said Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).

"We hope everyone has his knapsack and sleeping bag," Simpson said.

At issue is a Democratic-sponsored bill that seeks to limit campaign spending in a variety of ways, including use of public funds to help a candidate offset spending by an opponent that exceeds "voluntary" limits spelled out in the bill. It would also set aggregate limits for contributions by political action committees (PACs).

Republicans contend that spending limits hinder challengers, especially Republicans in areas of traditional Democratic strength such as the South. They have countered with legislation that limits individual PAC contributions, strengthens disclosure requirements and takes aim at some of the principal sources of Democratic campaign strength, such as labor union get-out-the-vote efforts.

After several days of negotiations between rival teams of Democrats and Republicans, Senate leaders reported progress on some issues, such as PAC limits and curbs on spending for television advertising, but were as divided as ever on the central issue of spending limits.

"There's no point in having an easy gentlemen's filibuster back in the cloakrooms," Byrd said. "Let's have it right here on the Senate floor where the American people {via television} can see it. Let's let the American people ponder this: do they want their U.S. Senate seats up for sale?"

While Republicans have been filibustering the Democratic bill since last spring, Democrats have not put them to the test of nonstop talking of filibusters of earlier eras.