Not Our Finest Hour

Congress jets home after a slapdash and slapstick session

On one side was Majority Leader Howard Baker of Tennessee, a believer in conciliation and consensus. On the other was a cadre of fervent right-wingers led by North Carolina's Jesse Helms, a maverick ideologue and veteran obstructionist. Ostensibly the issue was the 5¢ gasoline tax. But after six postmidnight sessions and four filibusters, the bitter battle became one over party power and personal pride.

In the end, six days after the special lameduck session of the 97th Congress was supposed to adjourn, Baker finally regained a moment of control over the cantankerous Senate...

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