Angry Republicans accused Democrats of turning the Senate into a "banana republic" yesterday after Capitol Police forced their way into the office of Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.), arrested him and carried him feet-first into the Senate chamber in a flamboyant climax to a bitter all-night filibuster fight.
Democrats, claiming they were the aggrieved party, countered that Republicans had provoked the "sideshow" in order to deflect attention from GOP efforts to scuttle Democratic-sponsored legislation to curtail costs of senatorial campaigns.
In the midst of the crossfire, a buoyant Packwood held a news conference at which he waved his arrest warrant at cameras, gave a detailed account of his midnight capture and joked with Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Henry K. Giugni, who led the posse-style manhunt that flushed him out of his locked-and-barricaded office.
"I rather enjoyed it," Packwood said of the experience.
Others were less amused.
"Those who participated in this Kafkaesque episode brought no credit to themselves or this institution," raged Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), adding that the Democratic-controlled Senate has "taken on the aura of a banana republic."
"The knock on the door and the forced entry smack of Nazi Germany, smack of communist Russia," charged Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), asserting that "even those accused of the most heinous crimes" apparently have more protections than U.S. senators.
Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), on whose motion the Senate's Democratic majority Tuesday night had ordered the arrest of senators who were boycotting a quorum vote, has "gone out of control," Specter said in an interview.
Byrd held a news conference yesterday to contend that he was driven to the arrests by the Republican boycott and other stalling tactics to block a vote on the campaign-financing bill. "Senators are supposed to be grown-up people, not kids," he said, adding that they are paid "to vote . . . not to run and hide." He said he regretted his action but added, "I would take it again if I had to. . . ."
When the showdown started Tuesday afternoon, Byrd had hoped to focus attention on the Republicans' stalling tactics by forcing them into continuous speechmaking to sustain their filibuster against the Democratic spending bill, aimed at encouraging candidates to accept voluntary spending limits.
Instead, Republicans, who contend the bill is designed to perpetuate Democratic control by eliminating GOP spending advantages, called his bluff by requiring a series of quorum votes and then vanishing, leaving only one sentinel behind to guard the floor Tuesday night.
Frustrated Democrats scrambled to find a quorum of 51 on their own. With five of their 54 members out of town or ill and with only one Republican on hand for the count, the Democrats fell one vote short, and Byrd invoked a rule to compel attendance of absent senators. When that failed, Byrd and the Democrats voted to order the sergeant-at-arms to arrest the absentees and return them to the chamber.
Shortly before midnight, Giugni and five armed Capitol Police plainclothesmen began scouring senators' hideaways in the Capitol and their suites in nearby office buildings. They spotted Sen. Steven D. Symms (R-Idaho), but he fled before they could apprehend him.
Giugni found Sen. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (R-Conn.) in his hideaway. Weicker, a man of formidable size and temper, refused to submit. Giugni, who was later praised by all sides for his poise under fire, decided to look elsewhere.
This brought him to Packwood, who -- having heard that the Giugni posse was on the prowl -- had locked the doors of his Russell Building office, barricading one of them with a chair. But Giugni had a passkey and entered the outer office. Packwood, hearing the intruders, jammed his shoulder against his door just as Giugni was coming through, reinjuring a finger that he had broken two weeks ago in Oregon.
Packwood told Giugni he would go with him but would not walk into the Senate chamber. So, Packwood said, he "went limp" on the elevator just outside the Senate chamber, and two of the officers carried him onto the floor, one holding his feet, the other his shoulders.
Packwood later went to the hospital to have his hand X-rayed. That, along with a follow-up X-ray yesterday, turned up no newly broken bones, he told reporters, waving his cast-enclosed hand for emphasis.
According to Senate officials, it was the first time since the mid-1940s that a senator has been arrested to compel attendance, although Byrd said he had once previously had to order such an arrest. In 1942, two southerners were apprehended and returned to the floor during a filibuster over civil rights legislation. In another instance, a Senate leader reportedly fired a sergeant-at-arms for trying to arrest him.
Packwood and Giugni had only nice things to say about each other yesterday. "He's a gentleman," said Giigni of Packwood. Giugni, whom Packwood said was tipped about his whereabouts by a cleaning woman, said he felt "bad about the whole thing." Said Packwood, "He deserves accolades, not criticism."
But Packwood and other Republicans contended that Byrd and other Democrats were jeopardizing the fragile "comity" that keeps the Senate from stalemate and collapse. "We can't do business here by brute force by a 54-to-46 vote majority," Packwood said.
Meanwhile, as debate on the bill headed into another night session, the Democrats continued their attempts to keep the Republicans on the floor and talking, and Republicans kept bedeviling them with quorum votes.
The debate slowed early in the evening as senators from both parties slipped out to attend fund-raisers that campaign-financing bills sponsored by Republicans as well as Democrats are designed to curtail.
Byrd scheduled a vote Friday to impose cloture, under which 60 votes are required to end the filibuster. Democrats failed in seven previous attempts at cloture last year, and Republicans predicted they would fail for an eighth time Friday. Byrd declined to say how long he would keep the campaign-finance bill on the floor.