- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 22, 2007

A spirit of bipartisanship, at least in words, filled National Statuary Hall Tuesday evening during a reception hosted by the United States Capitol Historical Society to honor new members of the 110th Congress.

“Every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, quoting Thomas Jefferson. “The aisle [between us] should be just that, an aisle.”

Just a few of the 10 new senators and 55 new representatives were present to congratulate Mrs. Pelosi as she accepted a marble gavel — a reproduction of one used by George Washington — from the society. Reps. Steve Cohen, Keith Ellison, Steve Kagen, Jerry McNerney and John Yarmuth and Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin represented the 2006 Democratic sweep through Congress. Rep. Doug Lamborn, a self-admitted “good conservative” from Colorado Springs, was one of the few Republican newcomers at the event. The reception also drew former Rep. Bill Archer and current Reps. Norman Dicks, Vernon Ehrlers and Donald Payne plus Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

In his welcoming speech, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin reminisced about the late Sen. Thomas Eagleton’s friendship with former Sen. John Danforth. “There is a possibility that God is a Republican, and I feel it’s time to cover all my bases,” Mr. Durbin said in relating Mr. Eagleton’s remarks about his fellow Missourian.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell drew more laughs in warning the freshman class about the challenges of serving in Congress. “You’ve got new worries,” he said, “like making fools of yourself on YouTube.” Democratic freshman class president Paul Hobes, a lawyer from New Hampshire, pointed to the statues around the room, noting, “Not one of these people cast in bronze or marble envisioned they would be standing here for eternity.”

Some of the likenesses won’t be around for that long, at least in Statuary Hall. While guests gathered around the buffet tables, historical society President Ron Sarasin related plans for moving “the only statue of a monarch,” Hawaiian King Kamehameha, into the new Capitol Visitors Center, due to open in 2008.

Each state is allowed two statues, and some are replacing older sculptures with newer ones. According to Capitol chief guide Steve Livengood, California is substituting President Reagan for Civil War-era politician Thomas Starr King, and Congress has commissioned a likeness of Rosa Parks. “You must be dead to qualify,” Mr. Livengood noted.

Deborah K. Dietsch

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