Reprinted from yesterday's late edition
The first day of Congress always seem like back-to-school time. And Thursday, of course, was no exception. The second legislative session of the 95th Congress was heralded in by the Democrats and the Republicans in a series of afternoon parties and the throngs of striking farmers marching through the halls of the Capitol.
Rep. Jack Brooks (D-Tex.) celebrated his 25th opening day of a new Congress, and among his awards for the distinction was a party thrown by his loyal staff a big cake and a building named after him in Beaumont.
"At first I couldn't think of what kind of building it was that was being named after me," mused Brooks to the crush of friends gathered in the Rayburn House Office Building. "But needless to say I was greatly relieved when I found out it was a United States Post Office and Court House."
Following his remarks, Speaker of the House Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill (D-Mass.) drew even louder laughter by noting the absence of White House Congressional Liaison Frank Moore. "I'm sorry to see Frank - what' that fellow's name? - Frank Moore isn't here," laughed O'Neill. "But I never worry because I know that if Frank is not here today, he'll be here tomorrow." (Moore, incidentally, finally did show, albeit late.)
The Brooks party was clearly the best watering hole on the Hill Thursday for legislators on their way to hear President Carter's State of the Union address.
"Nope, honey, I sure never thought I'd be here in Washington this long," said the 55-year-old Brooks in between gladhanding everybody in sight. "But it's like I told my constituents back home last week. I don't want to make a career out of this job, I just want it long enough to get my kids through school, so another 20 or 30 years will be just fine."
The day of parties and receptions started at 1 p.m. with Rep. Clarence Long's (D-Md.) annual constituent reception in the Cannon House Caucus Room, which drew, among others, several busloads of senior citizens from his Baltimore district. Beer, whiskey sours, potato chips, potato salad and slabs of Velveeta and Swiss cheese comprised the menu for the party, which resembled a church social.
Thanking everyone for coming, Long informed his guests he had just returned from a trip to South America where he had gone to "see how they were wasting our money." The crowd loved that one.
Later, down the hall from the Brooks bash, Henry Reuss (D-Wis.) was making something of a social debut himself. Deciding to combine a little culture with his wine (15 California wines, to be exact) and cheese, Reuss hosted a piano recital by John Young as well as an exhibition of paintings by Mary Page Evans, wife of freshman Rep. Tom Evans (D-Del.).
"I am a painter - not a congressional wife," Mary Page Evans said adamantly. "My husband's job has not changed my life at all. We still live in Delaware and I have no intention of moving here."
One stand-out among the otherwise conservatively attired crowd was Betsy Donahoe, who dressed in leather pants and jacket, and who said she had arrived by motorcycles.
It was, however, not an unusual mode of transportation for the young women, who said she was one of four or five motorcycle couriers who each day deliver the Congressional Record and Federal Register to lobbyists - by motorcycle, of course."You'd be surprised what a groovy job it is.
Earlier in the day Rep. Newton Steers (R-Md.) crammed what he called "a few friends" - but what his staff said had actually been 900 invitations - into his office.
One Steers staffer admitted that they had used the frank in sending out the invitations. "We said we were going to talk about energy or something to justify using it," he said conspiratorially. It was, however, a fact admitted by Steers himself who said, "Yes, we franked it. And by God, we're going to discuss legislation here if it kills me."
At that point Steers reached into his pocket to pull out a three-page, double-spaced letter containing, one assumes, legislative recommendations.
"See here," he said waving it in the air, "this was given to me just one minute ago by one guest who said she didn't want to waste time right now talking. But if she had we would have talked about these things, so this letter already justifies the frank."