Friday, November 13, 2009

Filibuster fever

Catch it.

And remember what happened last time?

Democrats, angered by the continued filibuster, forced Republicans to stay on the floor around the clock. As time continued, Senate Majority leader Robert Byrd (D-WV) used a little known provision to order the Senators to the floor at 12:30 in the morning. When Republicans refused to heed the order, Byrd used another provision to compel the hold-outs.

"Madame President, I move that the Seargent-at-Arms be instructed to arrest absent senators and bring them to floor," Byrd said.

Many Republicans fled from the Sergeant-at-Arms and at one point Senator Bob Packwood (R-OR) was bodily carried onto the floor of the Senate.

A report on the ensuing search was published in The Washington Post on February 25, 1988:

Shortly before midnight, [Sergeant-at-Arms Henry K.] Giugni and five armed Capitol Police plainsclothesmen began scouring senators' hideaways in the Capitol and their suites in nearby office buildings. They spotted Senator Steven Symms (R-ID), but he fled before they could apprehend him.

Giugni found Senator Lowell P. Weicker Jr (R-CT) 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 his 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.

Republicans denounced Senator Byrd's actions and expressed outrage at the arrest order and at Sen. Packwood's injury in particular.

"Senator's Packwood fingers will heal, but I don't know if the United States Senate will heal," said Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) on the floor the next day. "The scar tissue is going very deep at this time in the life of the Senate as a result of what happened yesterday."

Now that would make for some compelling C-Span.

And remember where the word "filibuster" comes from.

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