WASHINGTON — When a wheelchair carrying a pale and weak California Sen. Pete Wilson was pushed slowly into the Senate Chamber at 1:30 a.m. today, the assembled senators sprang to a standing ovation for the Republican. A day after an emergency appendectomy, Wilson was there to cast the vote that threw the Senate's fiscal 1986 budget resolution into a tie, which Vice President George Bush's vote transformed into a victory for the Republicans.
Wilson looked up at Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) before he voted and asked, in mock ignorance: "What was the question?"
The 51-year-old senator was the first to be wheeled from a hospital bed for a vote since 1964, when the vote of another Californian--Democrat Clair Engle--ended a Senate filibuster of the Civil Rights Act.
Engle, who had undergone brain surgery, had been unable to speak and voted by raising his hand. He died a month later.
Wilson returned to Bethesda Naval Hospital, where there are two other ailing senators to keep him company: Sen. John P. East (R-N.C.), and Sen. J. James Exon (D-Neb.).