Ceremonially, its the Washington ritual that signals a new begining for Democrats and Republicans alibe - the opening of a new Congress.
Unceremonially, it's the victors lasting the spoils.
So it was yesterday for 67 fledgling congressmen and 18 fledgling senators upholding that grand old congressional tradition by tossing - or being tossed - the Capitol Hill victory celebration.
Some were lavish - three wines, demi-tasse and petit-fours, as a starters others were spartan to the point of coffees and cookies that never arrived. Champagne corks popped obligingly for some newcomers (read winners) and for at least one old-timer who became a loser .
"We decided to drink the champagne anyway," said an aide to Sen. Robert Griffin, the Vichigan Republican who lost his bid for minority leader by one vote against Tennesee's Sen. Howard Baker. Riegle's Woe
It should be a happy day for Don Riegle. But the pain is written all over his face.
He looks as though he's been kicked in the stomach. He looks much older than his 38 years. "I feel," he said despairingly last night, "108."
He looks like a man who has just announced his divorce. Not one who has just been sworn in as a Michigan Senator.
Going through the motions is about all he can do. "Mother, I want you to meet the next Vice President."
"Oh, aren't you nice to come by," said Mrs. Riegle to Vice President-elect Fritz Mondale.
"If it hadn't been for you we wouldn't have won this," says Riegle to Mondale.
They both understand. Mondale can see Riegle's despair. But in politics you can't let personal things slow you down. Mondale is nice. He keeps trying to make jokes and keep the atmosphere light. "Wasn't that a wonderful evening we had together," he reminds Riegle, talking about an earlier fundraiser in the campaign.
"Great," says Riegle wanly as the crowds at his swearing-in reception close in on him and the Vice President-elect.
"We're fortunate to have such a handsome Vice president," says Riegle's mother.
"Get that in the paper," jokes Mondale.
A staffer insists on taking Mondale's picture with Riegle and little Don Riegle, his son by a first marriage.
The staffer borrows Mrs. Riegle's camera. Mondale reaches down and pulls up Donnie Riegle's pants. Big Don can hardly muster a smile. Mondale leaves amidst a swirl of hand-shakers and autograph-seekers.
New guests keep piling in. "Where's Meredith," they ask to other party-goers. People take them aside and explain. It was just in the paper yesterday, that Don and Meredith Riegle were getting divorced, had made the annoucement the day before this swearing-in after having campaigned so long together.
Don Riegle won't talk about it. He sighs, "I'm just not going to discuss it. We said all we had to say yesterday."
He pauses when asked if he had thought of canceling his swearing-in celebration. "Well, well, we've got a lot of friends from out of town. We . . . I . . . had to see them. That's the purpose of this."
More people arrive, Sen. Harry Byrd (Ind.-Va.), Sen. Adkau Stevenson (D-Ill.), labor types, lobbyists. They pat him on the back, assure him he'll get his seat on the Foreign Relations Committee. His father and mother are holding their own. "His father's still campaigning," beams Mrs. Riegle. "You know he was the mayor of Flint. I feel battered and bent from campaigning all my life."
His sister, Dee Ann Torres, poses with Sen. Byrd and her mother. "Just what I like, between two pretty girls," says Byrd.Riegle embraces his sister, his eyes welling with tears. Little Don is asked for an interview. He crawls on the floor among the guests to get away from a reporter. Then pleads that he has to go to the bathroom. "Bright boy," praises a congressman.
Jack Valenti, head of the Motion Picture Association, arrives. "I remember first meeting Don Riegle at a screening I had about three weeks after he was first elected to Congress about 10 years ago," he said. "I asked him what he wanted to do and he told me he wanted to be President of the United States."
"I said that?" exclaims a surprised Riegle with the first bit of energy he has displayed all evening.
"Well. It's not in my plans now. All I want to do is be president of the Motion Picture Association."
It isn't an easy party for Riegle to go through. But it might have been easier if he hadn't announced his divorce the day before.
"I guess," he says haltingly, "I guess yesterday was just the day we decided to do it. I really don't think there is an easy day."
He sighs, "Oh, gosh."
He turns to shake hands with a group of hefty labor leaders with name tags who have just arrived to congratulate him on his good fortune.
Sally Quinn Corrada's Celebrity
No one could remember when the Puerto Rican commissioner, ranked as a congressman but without a vote for his four-year term, had been a celebrity. It all changed dramatically last Friday when President Ford dropped a last-minute political bombshell by recommending statehood for the commonwealth island. And, so, it happened that yesterday on his first day in Congress, Baltasar Corrada was annointed a celebrity in the traditional Washington way - by pressing of flesh and juggling of luncheon dates.
"Members of Congress were greeting me on the floor. They were seeking me out. I was a cause celebre of a sort," said Corrada, a 41-year-old who had temporarily lost his corporate lawyer's cool as he basked in the limelight. But to all of his new colleagues, he had hastily explained, he has stressed that he backed statehood as an eventual goal.
While Corrada was being lionized on the House floor, a loud, exuberant and sizeable crowd waited for him in an Interior Committee room that was decorated with American Indian paintings. A trio from his hometown, Morovis, played serenades, the bartender was jumping with orders for Cutty Sark and orange juice, and the buffet table was a hefty but bland mix of Capitol Hill delights - meatballs, turkey, roast beef, mini-quiches and potato chips.
When he finally arrived, the trio struck up his campaign theme and he and his wife, Beatriz, and their four children were greeted tumultuously.
Rep. Herman Badillo (D-N.Y.) predicted that Corrada would do well independently and as a member of the five-person Hispanic Caucus.
And, before he addressed the crowd in Spanish, Corrada said the contraversay over statehood and his resulting notoriety could only help Puerto Rico's 3 million residents.
Jacqueline Trescott Mikulski's Affection
Frankly, it looked like all of Baltimore and environs poured into Room 210 of the Cannon Building: visiting firemen, old men, matrons, campaign workers, relatives - some spilling out into the halls where they sat munching potato salad and sandwiches.
And inside Room 210 was Barbara Mikulski, The Godmother, greeting them all with "E-e-y-y, Firefighters! Didn't recognize you without your red blazers," or "Big Sisterhood's here!", or "E-e-y-y, Lou-e-e-e!" - this to Maryland state comptroller, Louis Goldstein.
Baltimore City Council president Walter Orlinsky was there, commanding an audience of two ladies with the tale of his 90-pound weight loss, and subsequent 10-pound gain. ("Actually," said one, "I like him the way he is").
Any Marylanders who weren't at Mikulski's were, likely as not, on the other side of the hill for the celebration of Maryland's new Sen. Paul Sarbanes, whose vacated congressional seat Mikulski filled. Word had it that the Sarbanes party was so jammed "nobody can get near it."
And somewhere in a corner was Betty Friedan, who explained her presence with, "I'm a sister-in-arms. [Mikulski] is really terrific. She is one of the friends we have this year. She's always had a very firm awareness of the economic needs of women."
"Betty," a woman to her right spoke up, "I'm not a politician. Who are you?"
Friedan, looking taken aback, replied, "I'm a writer. Uh, I suppose my best-known book is "The Fefinine Mystique."
The woman laughed. "Bless you, you have courage. So do I. I want you to sign my prayer book." She handed Friedan a small white book with a cross on it. "It's been blessed by five archbishops."
Friedan complied, saying, "Well, I've never signed a prayer book before."
Most of those present were neither politician nor writers. They were people like Mikulski's Uncle Eddie (Blazucki) who used to own a religious gift and card shop in Baltimore, but gradually phased it out into Mikulski's congressional campaign headquarters. "We knew right away she'd make it," Uncle Eddie said proudly.
Besides him were the congresswoman's parents, sister and 6-year-old. "Valerie," warned Mikulski to her niece, "don't wander too far away, because Aunt Barbara's going to make a speech."
And right before she went off to her own swearing-in that's what she did.
"I can assure you," she informed the hundreds crammed together, "the affection you have for me does not match the affection I have for you."
Judy Bachrach Hayakawa's Doll
"I have a low tolerance for boredom," announced Calif. Republican Sen. S. I. Hayakawa. And seated behind his desk, much as a college president might, he glared out at the cameras before him.
Instead of a party, Hayakawa, on his first day in Congress, was hosting a press conference.
"You're asking me a lot of things," he scolded reporters once, "about which I haven't had time to think."
But he had time to think about something he introduced as a "Daruma" doll. There it sat on his desk, the gift of California friends and well-wishers early in his campaign against former Democratic Sen. John Tunney.
The doll, according to Hayakawa, symbolized good fortune, but as the successful candidate he had still one task to perform.
From a small black box he withdrew a brush and, before anybody realized what was happening, began painting two large eyes on the bright red papier-mache head.
The point of it all, said Hayakawa, the professor, was that as the successful candidate, he was assuring himself a succesful term of office.
Meanwhile, his tolerance for boredom admittedly low, the former San Francisco State College president cum folk hero showed what could be his U.S. Senate style. With a gesture and a grin, he headed out the door for the nearest elevator. Cookies and coffee still hadn't arrived.
It was an obviously happy and dramatic moment. Some, like former Sen. Albert Gore, whose 28-year-old son, Albert Gore Jr., had just been sworn in as a congressman from Tennessee, thought it was a moment of "sweet vindication."
Young Al brought a House seat back to the Gore clan, a seat his father first won in 1938, gave up to run for the Senate, a job he held until defeated by Bill Brock in 1970. "It's just like old times," an elderly lobbyist said to the senior Gore, as both men, dressed in almost identical blue pinstripe suits, managed receiving lines.
Rep. Gore sweated profusely in the steamy Rayburn Building dining room, admitting that his concentration during the oath had been broken when he noticed his daughter, Karenna, 3, raise her right hand in the House gallery. His father recalled the advice he had given his son. "I told him what Cordell Hull told me: 'Stay on the floor and learn the rules. They will come in handy,'" Gore Sr. said.
At tone point yesterday three generations of Gores stood on the House floor. But Karenna has made up her mind about her future. After he father's election, her grandmother said that women now run for Congress and maybe she could have the same job as her Daddy. "Grandma, let me tell you a secret," said the blonde, blue-eyed Karenna. "I want to be like Jimmy Carter - the President."
Jacqueline Trescott Moynihan's Crush
It was like a New York subway car, in the full flush of rush hour, come to a corner of the Senate. It was a day for winners and winner's people. And Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former dock worker, Harvard professor and controversial UN ambassador, a yellow rose pinned to his lapel and a half hour late because of a vote on the public works bill, loved it all.
"Stay," he called to a short man in a blue velvet cap just before entering the crowded reception room. "Love your hat. You're staying, I hope. Don't go."
And the man stayed, along with a party that had overflowed the reception room and was rapidly being mixed with gawking tourists who wanted to know what the hullabaloo was about.
Hassidic Jews in black clothes, hats and beards marched in to shake the hand of the puckish Irish senator. Men who smoked cigars, fat black ones that they chomped in the sides of their mouths, slapped Moynihan on the back and called him "buddy." The crowd was so thick that George Meany didn't even attempt to go into the room. But tiny Meg Gurevitch, former vice chairman for the New York State Democratic Committee, who had escorted Mrs. Moynihan around the state, ducked under arms and around bodies to be bussed by the senator.
Moynihan was heartly kissing the ladies, and when a male supporter chided him he explained, "The lights (from the cameras) keep getting into my eyes and I don't know how close I'm getting."
For some of the party-goers, after they'd said hello to Moynihan, getting back to New York was uppermost in their minds. "I've got to get back to Albany," said state sen. Joe Galiber. And Rep. James Scheuer was just about to tell a group of listeners how he and a group of Democrats had convinced Moynihan to run when he thought better of it. "It was last April when we invited pat up, but maybe I'd better just save that story."
The crush, the crowd, the noise and cigarcette smoke finally got to Bess Meyerson, who co-chaired Moynihan's election committee. "I think the whole thing is demeaning," she said. What, politics? someone asked. "Well, yes," she said. "I mean it's demeaning having to ask people for money to support you."
Karen DeWitt Heinz' Pickles
People who wear pickles where other people wear peanuts (on their lapels) gathered at noon yesterday in the honor and expense of Sen. John Heinz III (R-Pa.). They celebrated his victory up and down the fourth-floor halls of the Dirksen Senate Office Building for more than five hours.
"If people came all the way from Pennsylvania, we wanted to give them something to do here," said Heinz's legislative assistant, Jeff Garin, who said that the 200 guests were "people who went from door to door in the campaign, who sealed envelopes - the real grass roots."
But hold the pickles and forget the 57 varieties jokes.This was a party given by Heinz, the last of the bigtime spenders, who put $2.2 million into his own campaign ("a lot of it wasted said Garin, "on a store front that never opened and managerial problems").
Big parties on Capitol Hill, especially when they involve the Grass Roots, are strictly potato chips and dips-ville. Not this one.
There were hot creeps bubbling contentedly in the proper pans at each end of a large table. Fresh artichoke hearts and other garden vegetables, rare roast beef, and the assorted cheeses came with French bread and water biscuits, not saltine crackers. There were two bars with a choice of wines and cocktails, and yes there was coffee, but served in china demitasse cups, with three-tiered trays of rosebud-topped pastries.
Heinz himself was absent much of the time, for the swearing-in ceremonies, and the reigning star was Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who moved through the crowd accepting the congratulations and admiration of the voters.
Judith Martin DeConcini's Triumph
"When I was first in the House 20 years ago," said Stewart Udall, "I thought there ought to be a young man as a Democratic Senator from Arizona. Now we've finally got him."
Udall probably was thinking of himself or his brother Morris 20 years ago, not Dennis DeConcini. But it was DeConcini who finally became a young Democratic senator from Arizona, and at his party yesterday it appeared that he's pratically a chip off the Udall block.
There was Rep. Morris Udall interviewing DeConcini for an Arizona television station. There was Stewart Udall reminiscing with DeConcini's father, Evo), who's still practicing law at 75, about the days when Evo and the Udall brothers' father, Levi, were on the Arizona Supreme Court together, about the time Evo gave young Stewart a cubicle in his office.
Some say DeConcini is a lot more conservative than the Udalls, but for the labor biggies at DeConcini's party any Tucson-based Democrat is preferable to the Phoenix-based Republicans who usually dominate Arizona politics. DeConcini "has the right enemies," said Al Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), once again his state's senior senator, made a fast and formal appearnace at the party for his new colleague, not particularly noticed even by the two young boys with Instamatics whose parents had come down from New Jersey for the day. Goldwater smiled, but for the moment Tucson was triumphant.
At a cash-bar party Democrat Birch Bayh hosted for Republican Sen. Richard Lugar and others in the Indiana delegation, Veterans Administration Director and former congressman Richard Roudebush held court.
"I don't even want to be here for the god-damned inaugural," said Roudebush, who'd been through 16 years of similar ceremonial appearances before he was ceremoniously defeated 2 1/2 years ago in a race for the Senate by then-incumbent Sen. Vance Harlke.
"I'll spend my inaugural in Indiana," Roudebush continued, looking around for the bar. "Now if our man was in there . . ."