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Guards Seize Senator, Haul Him Into Debate Feet First : Packwood's OK but GOP Is Outraged

February 24, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Outraged Republicans complained of "banana republic" tactics today after armed Capitol police broke into GOP Sen. Bob Packwood's locked office, arrested him and hauled him feet-first into the Senate chamber during an all-night filibuster over Democratic campaign finance legislation.

On a motion by Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.) Sergeant-at-Arms Henry K. Giugni was handed warrants for the arrest of absent Republican senators, thus forcing them to answer a quorum call and keep the filibuster alive.

It was after midnight, more than 10 hours after the filibuster began, when Giugni and five armed plainclothes Capitol policemen began stalking Senate hideaways and senators' suites in nearby office buildings.

Giugni found several senators' offices empty but saw Sen. Steve Symms (R-Ida.) running down a hallway to escape arrest. Then in an extraordinary incident that the Senate historian said had not occurred since 1942, Giugni used a passkey to unlock Packwood's office door.

'Tried to Hold Door Closed'

Bob Witeck, a spokesman for the Oregon Republican, said Packwood resisted and somehow jammed a finger he had broken two weeks ago in a fall. "He tried to hold the door closed with his shoulder, but they were able to push it open," Witeck said.

"I had to shove in the door to get into his office," said Giugni, a stocky Army veteran of World War II and former vice squad policeman in Honolulu. "He was very courteous."

Packwood walked with Giugni and his police escort a block or so from the Russell Senate Office Building to the Senate wing of the Capitol but refused to "walk on the floor willingly," Witeck said.

At that point, three policemen grabbed Packwood by his ankles and both arms and carried him bodily into the Senate chamber, feet first. Packwood later went to a hospital, where X-rays showed that his left hand--enclosed in a cast--had not been reinjured during the scuffle with Giugni.

'Except for the Honor of It'

"I rather enjoyed it," Packwood told reporters later. "I instructed four of my staff to bring a sedan chair. But except for the honor of it, I'd rather walk."

Packwood said he bolt-locked his main office door after his staff reported that Giugni would try to arrest him.

The senator said "it sounded like a battering ram" at the door, with his shoulder pushing from inside against three shoulders on the other side. "Their mass beat my mass," Packwood said, adding that he suffered only swollen knuckles.

Packwood said that the campaign spending bill has no chance of becoming law, because Senate Republicans have more than enough votes to sustain a certain veto by President Reagan, and that Byrd succeeded only in alienating his GOP colleagues.

'Banana Republic' Tactics

Packwood's arrest provoked angry clashes between Democrats and Republicans. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said the incident brought to mind the police-state measures of "Nazi Germany and Communist Russia."

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) complained of "banana republic" tactics, and said Packwood's arrest "flouted the Constitution of the United States."

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) responded that Republican senators had engaged in a "shameful display" of fleeing the chamber to avoid a quorum call, requiring Giugni to search them down like a "headmaster chasing schoolchildren."

Democrats and Republicans have been at loggerheads for nearly a year over the Democratic proposal to impose voluntary Senate campaign spending limits of $950,000 to $5.5 million, depending on a state's population.

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