Jovial Democratic Senators Greet Obama
By Paul Kane
For last year's state of the union, the Senate was a twitter with the reverberations of Edward M. Kennedy's (Mass.) endorsement of then-Sen. Barack Obama in the Democratic presidential primary. As senators gathered last Jan. 28, 2008, to walk over to the House together, Obama made a B-line for Kennedy's side so that they could be next to each other during the last of George W. Bush's presidential addresses to Congress -- leading to questions about whether Obama snubbed his rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).
It was a much different atmosphere tonight as the senators gathered in their chamber: no tension, no pressure, just jovial talk and the cobbling together of little sub-cliques of lawmakers that resembles something akin to junior high school.
At the front of the line were all the smart kids, otherwise known as the bipartisan leadership of the Senate, such as Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). In the middle of the pack are the over-achievers, the savvy veterans who are chairmen or top Republicans on committees, such as Sen. John "Jay" Rockefeller III (D-W. Va.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).
And then in the back of the pack were the new kids on the block, laughing and giggling but trying not to get in trouble, the classes of 2006 and 2008. There at the back of the line Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), elected in 2006 and on his way to his third such presidential address, was bellowing out instructions to the newest crop of senators -- Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Jean Shaheen (D-N.H.), Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), all elected last November and attending their first ever presidential address to a joint session of Congress.
Finally, Vice President Biden, acting in his capacity as president of the Senate, arrived just before 8:40 p.m. and led the pack of his former colleagues across the Capitol for Obama's speech.
Several senators were not present, most prominently Kennedy, whose battle with brain cancer has made his appearances in the Capitol sporadic.
Web Politics Editor
February 24, 2009; 9:46 PM ET
Categories: Democratic Party
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