Gratitude took several forms: plaques for the floor managers, kudos for the coalition and due bills for Jimmy Carter payable in November 1980.
"I hope," drawled Rep. Jack Brooks (d-Tex.), who as floor manager had steered the legislation creating the new Department of Education through the House, "that you'll all work to get President Carter reelected with the same dedication and effort you used to get this bill through Congress."
It was politics at its purest last night, that heady aftermath of victory when nothing could be more natural than quid pro quo -- the symbolic paybacks and payoffs between an exultant executive branch and an obiliging legislative branch aided by 140 special-interest groups.
"No problem at all," said Al Sumberg somewhat expansively, speaking for the American Association of Univesity Professors. "Jimmy Carter's a pro-education president; there's been nobody like him since Lyndon Johnson, a period when improvements in education were tied to civil rights."
"Jack (brooks) always uses a very direct approach," said an amused Owen Kiernan and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Rep. Brooks was on of the celebration's stars, the other being his counterpart in the Senate, Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn).
A former secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, Ribicoff told the crowd of more than 200 sipping white wine and nibbling cheese and meatballs in a Dirksen Building committee room that he had long felt education had been "put on the back burner because health and welfare were always in some crisis that required the secretary to pull them out of the fire."
Joining in the salute was James Mcintyre, head of the Office of Management and Budget, which will oversee implementation of the legislation expected to be signed into law Oct. 17 by President Carter.
"A touch fight," said McIntyre. "If I had to be with somebocy in a fox-hole, I think I'd like it to be Jack Brooks."
Neither McIntyre nor Brooks professed to know whom the president is considering to head the department.
None of the possiblities who have been mentioned in recent months -- Jerry Apodaca, former Democratic governor of New Mexico; Mary Berry, assitant secretary of health, education and welfare for education; Alan Campbell, head of the Office of Personnel Mahagement -- turned up at the celebration. That may have been because non -- except Berry in her HEW capacity -- was invited.
"I don't think this is going to be any place for theorists," said Owen Kiernan, expressing the hope that "they bring people in from the trenches" to do the new jobs within the department.
"Whether you get a former governor of New Mexico or a university president of former governor of North Carolina (Terry Sanford) to head it is really of less concern than quality programs." Kiernan said.
"I'm sure it will be some political friend of the president's," said Bette E. Hamilton of the American Association of Community of Junior Colleges. "Andrews Young is looking for a job."
There were a few congressional faces in the crowd, including those of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Robert F. Drinan (D-Mass), but not many. Drinan said he was sorry the U.S. Catholic Conference had opposed the legislation, "and I'm glad God prevailed."
But the party was clearly a victory thank-you to Ribicoff and Brooks by the people who had helped pull the bill through, organizations like the National Education Association, the U.S. Student Association, the International Reading Association and the National Conference of Teachers of English.
"Some people say it's the most effective lobby they've ever seen," said Allen Cohen, head of the ad hoc committee that started building its 140-member coalition last November.
Working out of the state of Illinois Office of Education here, Cohen was one of many working full time, but he wouldn't attempt to estimate man hours or money spent getting the bill through Congress.
"What counts," he said, "is that we put together a cabinet voice."