Most congressional observers focused last week on matters such as the fight over the GOP tax cut proposal and other political tussles. But one important provision appears to have escaped attention: Section 601 in the State Department authorization bill regarding "interparliamentary groups."

These are delightful trips that lawmakers, staff and spouses frequently take abroad as part of an American delegation to a conference or assembly, mostly in England, other parts of Europe and Mexico. Heavy lifting is usually prohibited. The idea is just to hang out with counterparts and rub elbows--something more than a few members can probably benefit from.

Though hugely popular on the House side, senators often don't deign to go on these journeys, which, after all, are not especially planned just for them. That means valuable seats go begging.

But have no fear. Section 601 will correct this outrage: ". . . [W]henever either the House of Representatives or the Senate does not appoint its allotment of members as part of the American delegation or group to a conference or assembly . . . and so notifies the other body of Congress, the other body may make appointments to complete the membership of the American delegation."

Let no seat be unfilled! Hurry on down.

If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Kuala Lumpur

Speaking of travel . . . There should be plenty of intelligence facts to be found on Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Richard C. Shelby's splendid month-long journey to Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Scheduled to join Shelby (R-Ala.) are Vice Chairman Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) and Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), a member of the foreign relations subcommittee for that region.

And the Trivia Envelopes Please . . .

Now, the answers to Friday's Loop Almanac of American Politics 2000 Trivia Quiz.

1. The first ex-librarian elected to Congress? Rep. Major R. Owens (D-N.Y.).

2. NRA President Charlton Heston campaigned for Rep. Ralph M. Hall (D-Tex.).

3. San Antonio claims the most military retirees, with about 43,000.

4. The state legislature with the highest percentage of women members? Wisconsin, 41 percent.

5. The six states that have never sent a woman to Congress are Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, New Hampshire and Vermont.

6. Coya Knutson of Minnesota lost reelection to her House seat in 1958 apparently because her husband urged her to come home and make him breakfast again.

7. Two governors of Hungarian descent are George E. Pataki (R) of New York and Jesse Ventura (Reform Party) of Minnesota.

8. Three states that do not have legalized gambling are Hawaii, Utah and Tennessee.

9. Three Chinese Americans have served in Congress. They are David Wu (D-Ore.), Hiram Fong (R-Hawaii) and Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii), whose father is Chinese.

10. And finally, which state leads the country in manufacturing refrigerators? Indiana. (If you are not from Indiana and not in the refrigeration business and yet knew this answer, professional counseling may be useful.)

At Ex-Im, Still in Business, but Barely

When last we left the Export-Import Bank, it was just about out of business for lack of a quorum on its five-member board of directors. Now it looks as if it's going to have to wait a while longer for another member.

Administration nominee Vanessa Weaver, White House deputy chief of personnel, was grilled at length on Thursday by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Phil Gramm (R-Tex.) and Sen. Robert F. Bennett (R-Utah) for her ties and phone calls to one John Huang--including one when Huang, the former Commerce Department employee at the center of the illegal campaign fund-raising investigation, was hiding from a subpoena and the U.S. Marshals Service.

A last-minute GOP nominee for the bank, Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) ex-aide Daniel Renberg, who initially had been vetted for an International Trade Commission spot, got cuffed up a bit by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), who questioned him about bank loans that might adversely affect U.S. companies.

Senate Republicans and Democrats alike seemed averse to a recess appointment by President Clinton, sources said. So the Senate passed House-approved legislation that would enable the bank board to function with only two members until Sept. 30. The move will enable the bank to back several billion dollars in exports that had been endangered by the lack of a working board.

More Ambassadors on Hold

Don't cry for me, Argentina, China, Brazil and New Zealand.

The Senate, as is usual, held on to most nominations for action when it returns in the fall, but sent back the nomination of New York businessman Hassan Nemazee for Buenos Aires. (Former representative Toby Moffett (D-Conn.) is in vetting for that job.) The Chinese haven't agreed to receive retired Adm. Joseph W. Prueher for Beijing, and no one's been nominated for Brazil and New Zealand.

Correction

Education Department aide Henry Smith is to be executive director of the national capital region of the American Jewish Congress, not of the Washington office.