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Senate Republicans' filibuster shreds vestiges of bipartisanship

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The Senate was recovering from yet another 'round-the-clock session, and Sen. Daniel Evans could do little more than roll his eyes and titter over the lunacy of it all. ``Now you know why I'm leaving,'' said the Republican from Washington state, who recently announced his impending retirement. Events of the past week have hardly showcased the Senate at its most efficacious. For four days, the ``world's greatest deliberative body'' has deliberated continuously as Republicans staged a filibuster of a Democratic bill that would change the way many Senate campaigns are financed.

Senators of both parties have hurled hair-curling invective at each other, comparing, for example, the Senate to the legislature of a ``banana republic'' and invoking images of Nazi gestapo agents to describe the tactics of some of their colleagues. Democrats and Republicans alike have also spent hours concoting exotic parliamentary maneuvers that would leave Machiavelli agog. Early Wednesday morning, a Republican Senator was even arrested and carried onto the Senate floor by a posse of Capitol Hill police officers.

And all this has occured because the two parties have been unable to agree on what sort of campaign finance reform proposal the Senate should vote on.

The campaign finance debacle pits Democrat against Republican in a fractious dispute. It has accelerated a steady deterioration of relations between the Senate's majority and minority factions, potentially complicating Democratic efforts to pass a raft of controversial legislation - from welfare reform to an array of contentious labor-related bills - before the end of the year.

Even moderate Republicans who have worked closely with Democrats openly suggest that the majority's agressive determination to force a vote on their reform legislation constitutes an open invitation to minority revolt. ``Let's put it this way, some Republicans won't be in a mood to do Democrats any favors,'' says Sen. Bob Packwood (R) of Oregon, whose participation in a Republican boycott of a procedural Senate vote provoked his Wednesday morning arrest at the direction of Senate Majority Leader Robert Byrd (D) of West Virginia.

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