WASHINGTON — A long, bitterly partisan battle came to a climax today as the House voted to seat Democrat Frank McCloskey from the 8th District of Indiana, launching a Republican walkout.
The vote was 236 to 190 for a Democratic motion to seat McCloskey on the basis of a four-vote win over Republican Richard D. McIntyre in a recount conducted by a Democrat-controlled task force.
After the vote, Republicans immediately moved to adjourn the House session and block the swearing in of McCloskey today.
The GOP demanded a roll-call vote on that motion as well. After casting their votes on the adjournment motion, Republicans streamed out of the chamber.
Vow to Shut Down House
"There will be no Republicans in the chamber when he's sworn in," said Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.).
"We will do our best within the parliamentary rules to keep the House shut down," said Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R-Mich.), chairman of the Republican Congressional Committee.
But House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill (D-Mass.) told reporters, "We'll maintain a quorum and do business."
The House first rejected 246-183 a Republican motion to send back to the House Administration Committee the resolution recommending that McCloskey be seated.
Rep. William Frenzel (R-Minn.) said the seating of McCloskey showed that the Democratic majority was "willing to exercise ruthlessly whatever power it has in sheer numbers."
Rep. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said "this wound will not heal without a terrible price and a scar that will not disappear for many years."
Rep. Leon Panetta (D-Calif.), chairman of the task force that recommended seating McCloskey, said, "No one regrets more deeply than I that the final results were as close as they were."
But, he said, "we know very well that if Mr. McIntyre had won, he would be seated." He added that the decisions of the task force, composed of two Democratic congressmen and one Republican, "were justified, they were supported and they were right."
The last mass walkout in the House occurred in 1890, when Democrats left the chamber prior to a vote to seat a black Republican congressman, according to published precedents of the House.
"We have no choice but to underscore what a serious blow this is to the Constitution," said Vander Jagt.