Arrested Development

Posted July 23, 2003 at 4:19pm

With the redistricting fiasco in Texas earlier this year and the recent Ways and Means incident, it might seem that politicians are using law enforcement more and more to attain their goals. But last week’s Ways and Means brouhaha — during which Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) called the Capitol Police to order Democrats back into the committee room — wasn’t the first of its kind.

Just ask former Sen. Bob Packwood (R-Ore.).

In early 1988, Packwood was injured when then-Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) ordered the Sergeant-at-Arms to find and arrest absent Republican Senators during debate over a campaign finance reform bill.

Here’s the report filed in a March 1988 issue of Roll Call. In the front-page photo, Packwood, wearing a cast on his left hand, recreates the incident for a Roll Call photographer.

By John P. Gregg

Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) promised “no gentleman’s filibuster” over S.2, the campaign finance reform bill, and the resulting 53 hours of debate provided some particularly ungentlemanly moments.

After four days of round-the-clock sessions, weary Republicans managed to defeat a cloture bid Friday — the eighth since S.2 was introduced last year — and effectively killed proposals that would impose spending caps and provide for public financing of Senate elections.

It was like a filibuster of old, with Senators camping out on cots in the Mansfield Room and droning on in the chamber. Sen. Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) was a typical speaker, phlegmatically reciting the virtues of the current financing system, measuring out his words as if he were pouring cough syrup into a teaspoon.

The highlight, however, came late Tuesday night when Byrd ordered Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Henry Giugni to arrest absent Republicans, who were intentionally avoiding the Senate chamber to prevent a quorum and consume time.

Giugni, leading a posse of five Capitol Police officers, spotted Sen. Steve Symms (R-Idaho) in the Capitol basement, but he was too far away for a successful chase. Although the police did find Sen. Lowell Weicker (R-Conn.) in his Capitol hideaway office, the Senator, at 6-feet-6-inches and 270 pounds, steadfastly refused to get up from his couch so Giugni took his search team elsewhere.

A Russell Building cleaning lady told Giugni that Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.) was in his personal office. Using a pass key, Giugni opened the door just as Packwood tried to block it with his arm. Packwood ended up reinjuring a broken finger.

After Giugni, a former Honolulu police officer, arrested Packwood and escorted him to the Capitol, Packwood told Giugni that he refused to enter the chamber under his own power.

Giugni responded by ordering the officers to lift Packwood and carry him through the chamber doors, which he entered feet first at 1:19 a.m.

“I do not relish doing that type of thing,” Giugni said later. “I take no personal glee in it. … Senator Packwood is a friend of mine and one of the finest Senators on the Hill. But when I’m ordered, I follow instructions.”

While criticizing the partisan wrangling that led to the arrest, Packwood had nothing but kind words for Giugni.

“He handled it as a gentleman,” Packwood said. “I have no criticism or reprimands against Henry. … But you can’t do business around here by brute force.”

After the failed attempt to invoke cloture, Democratic proponents of S.2 promised that campaign finance reform was not completely dead. Sen. David Boren (D-Okla.) said, “This issue is on the national agenda to stay.”