Out of the Picture
When senators gathered on the chamber floor Tuesday for their official annual photo dressed in their finest, hair combed and all smiles, a number of senators were noticeably asbsent: the three presidential candidates -- Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- and ailing Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who was back home fending off a bitter Democratic primary challenger, also missed the photo.
It may have been the first time, or certainly one of very few times, that the nonagenarian Byrd missed the official Senate photo. His office couldn't be sure, and neither the Senate historian nor the Capitol historian (or the Senate library) had a record of attendance for the photos. A traditionalist who reveres the rules as well as the ceremonial pomp and circumstance of the venerable chamber, the West Virginia senator would surely have been there front and center Tuesday, wearing his three-piece suit, the chain of his antique gold pocket watch dangling from his vest.
Instead, Byrd, 90, the longest-serving senator, was in Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was admitted Monday with a fever, on the same day Kennedy, the second longest-serving senator, underwent successful brain surgery to remove a cancerous tumor.
The bad news for Byrd and the other senators who missed the photo is that, unlike in years past when their faces were sometimes Photoshopped back into the portrait, there will be no Photoshopping this year.
"The picture is a portrait of the moment," says Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance W. Gainer. "It would not be easy and it would look hokey."
But the good news for Democrats who made the photo session is that they will be front and center in the portrait, since the Democratic leadership, which controls the chamber, ordered this year's photo be taken from the west side of the chamber - the side on which Democrats sit.
Read more behind-the-scenes moments on Capitol Hill, check out today's "On the Hill" column, written by yours truly and her dear colleague Paul Kane, in the In the Loop page of the Post newspaper.
Mary Ann Akers
June 5, 2008; 9:24 AM ET
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