Grab the parkas, snow boots: Senate's in session

AP News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2009 3:04 PM

Ski bums would have called it a "powder day" and blown off work.

Not so senators, who strapped on their snow boots, grabbed their parkas and headed off to a Capitol engulfed in a blizzard.

Only two out of 100 weren't there: Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent and Orthodox Jew who caucuses with Democrats, was in his home state for Hanukkah with his family. Republican Judd Gregg, who actually is a skier, was in New Hampshire for a family commitment.

In the ornate Senate, heavy brown boots were as common as wing tips, particularly for the many senators with homes on Capitol Hill, including Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

"It looks like Vermont out there," said Sen. Pat Leahy, D-Vt. He walked to the Capitol from his nearby home, as did a host of others.

Voting started at 7:20 a.m., as daylight broke.

Senators were offered chauffeured rides in Chevrolet Suburbans if their homes were too socked in. Some are driven every day, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and 92-year-old Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. As president pro tempore of the Senate, Byrd, requires special security because he is third in the presidential line of succession.

Byrd entered the chamber to applause from his fellow Democrats.

Hawaii's Daniel Inouye, the second most senior member of the Senate, was taking no chances as the Senate passed his cherished defense appropriations bill, which is loaded with pet projects for his state.

"I stayed in a hotel," Inouye said. "It cost me a few bucks."

Others weathered the storm.

"Thirty miles an hour down I-95," said Baltimore native Barbara Mikulski, D-Md. "It was as slippery a slope as passing health care legislation."