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BLUSTERY CONGRESS ENDS ON QUIET NOTE.

Byline: Alan Fram Associated Press

Twenty-one months after thundering into town pledging revolution and a halt to business as usual, the Republican 104th Congress adjourned meekly Friday after a near-empty House approved a pile of mostly routine bills.

Only a handful of lawmakers and aides and about 150 tourists were in the cavernous House chamber when Rep. Robert Walker, R-Pa., gaveled the two years of labor to an end at the close of a tranquil 52-minute session Friday afternoon.

That was in stark contrast to the scene Jan. 4, 1995, when Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., became speaker of the House in the first GOP-controlled Congress in four decades. Then the Capitol was bristling with network television anchors, journalists from the world over, lobbyists, lawmakers' families and even television's Power Rangers.

``The chair declares the second session of the 104th Congress adjourned sine die,'' intoned Walker, using traditional language.

Before leaving, lawmakers sent President Clinton 14 bills approving everything from new penalties for use of a date-rape drug to commemorative coins for baseball great Jackie Robinson and Revolutionary War patriot Crispus Attucks. The 14 measures were approved by voice vote, since most House members already had gone home to campaign for re-election after completing the session's major business.

In a measure of Friday's anticlimactic conclusion to one of the most closely watched Congresses in years, the House's top leaders did not even show up. Gingrich was campaigning for GOP candidates in North Carolina and Michigan. Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., was at party headquarters several blocks away making fund-raising telephone calls, according to aides.

Their activities underlined another truth about the 104th that seemed unthinkable two Januaries ago: Control of the Congress that begins in January is up for grabs, thanks to voters' qualms about the GOP's agenda of cutting the budget, taxes and the size of government.

With lawmakers struggling most of the week to complete an assortment of relatively minor bills, the Senate's adjournment Thursday night and the House's departure Friday seemed like slow goodbyes. Yet Congress went home earlier than at any time since 1976, another election year, when the final gavel fell Oct. 1.

Despite the two years of grappling between the two parties, members of the rival parties amicably shook hands and even embraced Friday.

As the House finished its final bill - designating Colorado's Cache La Poudre River a national water heritage area - the liberal, vocal and retiring Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., joked to her GOP rivals: ``You would wait for last, wouldn't you, to bring this up?''

From across the chamber, the conservative Rep. Gerald Solomon, R-N.Y., drew laughter by replying: ``I just wanted to make sure the gentle lady had the last word.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 5, 1996
Words:450
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