John McCaslin

The first session of the 108th Congress is now officially wrapped up, a year that witnessed an impressive 459 votes.

"We had more votes in the Senate this year than any time since 1995, the first year of the Contract With America," notes Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Several votes were so close that in three instances Vice President Dick Cheney, the president of the Senate, had to break the tie in the chair.

"So for those who were interested in drama and who typically think of the Senate as a place where you go to watch paint peel, there was a good deal of excitement this year at various intervals in our legislative consideration," McConnell adds.

The final session of the 108th Congress convenes at noon on Jan. 20.

A PENNY SAVED

In thanking the congressional pages who served during the first session of the 108th Congress - many of whom volunteered to stay beyond their scheduled time - Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) urged them to return one day as representatives and senators.

In fact, several members were pages in their youth, one of the more intriguing examples being former Arkansas Sen. David Pryor, the father of current Sen. Mark Pryor, a Democrat.

When other kids were placing pennies on railroad tracks, the elder Pryor as a congressional page hid a penny in the U.S. Capitol, making a promise to himself that he would come back one day and pick up that penny as an elected official. And he did.

PROPHET BYRD

"It was the prophet Hosea who lamented of the ancient Israelites, 'For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.'

"I wonder if it will come to pass," asks Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), "that the president's flawed and dangerous doctrine of preemption on which the United States predicated its invasion of Iraq will some day come to be seen as a modern-day parable of Hosea's lament.

"Could it be that the Bush administration, in its disdain for the rest of the world, elected to sow the wind, and is now reaping the whirlwind?"

Byrd, like President Bush, is a deeply religious man. After Bush was elected president, his first private dinner guest was Byrd, a Democrat. What impressed the senator the most was that the president said grace before the meal.

RIGHTS TO THE BILL

It took some "modern-day political negotiations," concedes Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Dela.), but after 213 years his state's historic original copy of the Bill of Rights - ratified in 1790 - is coming home.


John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on Townhall.com and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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