One disgruntled lawmaker says he's seen the likes of the 101st Congress before.
"Think of what it would be like to watch every `Friday the 13th' movie back to back," said Rep. Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. "Freddy is hiding somewhere in the corridors."Like a character in a bad horror film, this Congress won't die. Oct. 5 was the original adjournment date. Then, Oct. 12. Then the 18th. Next, well, maybe before Halloween. Congress has never pushed its session so close to an election.
Credibility is nil. When word of an impending budget deal filtered through the Capitol on Wednesday, the news was greeted with a mix of skepticism and pseudo-enthusiasm.
"It's like the boy who cried wolf," said Rep. Joe Moakley, D-Mass., chairman of the House Rules Committee.
"The joy will come when the speaker hits the gavel and says the final two words: sine die" for the final adjournment, said Rep. Gary Ackerman, D-N.Y.
Rep. Beryl Anthony, D-Ark., was optimistic for a weekend departure and said members were talking of little else. "That's the number one topic - to get out of here," he said.
Despite frustration, lawmakers said there still was no sentiment for adjourning now and trying again to finish the year's business after the election.
"If there's a lame duck we're all dead ducks," said Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., adding that he was fortunate to be running for re-election unopposed this year.
Not everyone was finding humor in Congress' predicament.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., complained that lawmakers' self-flagellation wasn't helping matters. "He that maketh himself an ass must not take it ill if men ride him," he reminded the Senate.
Rep. Marvin Leath, D-Texas, was a pessimist.
Sitting outside the House chamber, he observed that lawmakers had nobody to blame but themselves. Less than two weeks before the election and with the public clamoring for budget action, the House had spent most of the afternoon in a turf fight between two committees on a seafood inspection bill.
"People are not just tired, they're exhausted," he said. "And we spend the whole afternoon talking about fish."