Why These Senators Were Hunted Down And Arrested In 1988

In a heated battle over campaign-finance-reform legislation in 1988, Republican senators took extreme measures to stop the political process. And Democrats turned to some rarely used tactics to get back to business on their bill. The Republicans were engaged in a filibuster, basically stalling any action on the legislation by debating for hours and making other motions. They opposed campaign spending limits, believing that it would hamper the efforts of challengers to unseat sitting senators (via The Washington Post).

Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd warned the Republicans that they would lose control of the Senate floor if they didn't keep their speeches going. If they stopped for too long, Byrd said he would call for a vote on the bill. "There's no point in having an easy gentlemen's filibuster back in the cloakrooms," Byrd explained. "Let's have it right here on the Senate floor where the American people can see it."

This was the Democrats' eighth attempt to get this legislation through the Senate, and the Republicans were pulling out all the stops to prevent it from moving forward. Their next move was to run away from the Senate. As Senator Bob Packwood of Oregon explained, "we had a hurried caucus among the Republicans ... and we all scattered" (via The New York Times). There has to be a majority of senators present to have what is called a quorum. And without enough senators on hand, all of the work came to a halt.

Senator Bob Packwood was arrested and carried into the Senate

Senator Byrd wasn't up for playing games, however. He ordered the wayward senators be arrested and forced to return to the Senate. Senate Sergeant at Arms Henry Guigni led a group of six Capitol police officers through the building to search for the runaway senators (via United States Senate). They were able to track down Senator Packwood who was hiding in one of his offices. He had put a heavy chair against the door to prevent the Capitol police from reaching him. Guigni used a skeleton key to enter Packwood's office, and it became a test of strength as Packwood tried to stop Guigni and his officers from coming in. "It was their mass against my mass," Packwood told The New York Times.

The highly resistant Packwood was brought into the Senate, entering the room feet first as the officers carried him in. He told those assembled there, "I did not come fully voluntarily." In the scuffle, he managed to reinjure a finger. Byrd rebuked the runaway politicians at a press conference, saying "Senators are supposed to be grown-ups, not kids" (via The Los Angeles Times). Despite of all Byrd's efforts, the campaign finance reform legislation failed to move forward.