Republican congressmen angrily walked out of the House chamber Wednesday after the Democratic-controlled House voted largely along party lines to award Indiana's 8th Congressional District seat to Democratic incumbent Frank McCloskey over his Republican rival, Richard D. McIntyre.
The House action, by a vote of 236 to 190, climaxed four months of bitter wrangling between Democrats and Republicans that had brought legislative business to a halt for the last week. All 236 votes for McCloskey were from Democrats, but 10 Democrats joined 180 Republicans in voting against him.
Republicans accused their opponents of "abuse of power" and "legislative tyranny" in seating McCloskey, who had been declared the loser last year by 418 votes on the basis of a state-certified recount.
The vote capped the second straight day of rancorous debate on the House floor. On Tuesday, Democrats beat back a Republican effort to declare the hotly contested seat vacant and to call a special election.
March Out Two Abreast
In the first protest of its kind in more than 90 years, Republicans demanded adjournment immediately after Wednesday's vote and stalked up the center aisle and out of the House chamber two abreast while some of their Democratic colleagues applauded and waved to them.
The walkout was signaled by House Minority Leader Robert H. Michel of Illinois, who moved for adjournment just after the McCloskey vote.
"Would the gentlemen remain within until I have had an opportunity to administer the oath (to McCloskey)?" asked Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.).
"No," Michel shouted. "Our purpose is to keep within the precedent of the Democratic Party back in 1890," when Democrats walked out to protest similar action in a contested election.
McCloskey was escorted to the well of the House to take his oath of office amid a standing ovation. Michel and many other Republicans returned to the chamber a short time later.
McCloskey Tells Regret
"I'm really sorry for anyone on either side who was saddened or inconvenienced," McCloskey told the House. He said that he had spoken to Michel and Republican Whip Trent Lott of Mississippi, and "I know we can settle down and work together."
The House action followed the recommendation of a three-member House task force, which found on the strength of a recount by Congress' nonpartisan General Accounting Office that McCloskey won last November's election by four votes. The task force, composed of two Democrats and a Republican, was set up to resolve questions about the state's ballot recount.
McIntyre, the Republican challenger, had been declared the winner by 34 votes one day after the election and by 418 votes after a state-ordered recount. But House Democrats argued that 4,800 citizens had lost their votes when their ballots were declared invalid under the state's strict election laws.
'Stolen' Election Claimed
After the GAO recount, however, Republicans charged that the Democrats had "stolen" the election by stacking the task force, devising ballot-counting rules to help McCloskey and finding irregularities in 32 unopened absentee ballots that otherwise might have given McIntyre the seat.
The final vote on seating McCloskey was taken after Democrats had defeated two Republican-sponsored moves to avoid a showdown, including an early motion to adjourn and a motion to send the resolution back to the House Administration Committee.
As a post-walkout press conference broke up on the Capitol grounds and Republicans returned to their offices, talk turned to the possible impact of the dispute on such vital issues as the federal deficit and President Reagan's budget.
Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Republicans would pursue a series of "McIntyre reforms" that would address such Republican grievances as their charge that they are underrepresented on House committees. "This has come very close to unifying us," Gingrich said.