The courteous treatment senators accord one another is called comity, but Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, skirted comedy when he noted many Americans think the lawmakers "have been spaced out for a lot of years."

It happened Tuesday when Garn, who flew on the space shuttle Discovery in 1985, was trading compliments with Sen. William Proxmire, D-Wis., as they orchestrated Senate action on a $59.4 billion spending bill for several agencies, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.Proxmire lauded Garn as "the only senator who is a genuine astronaut. He knows the space program inside and out."

Unfortunately, Proxmire was forgetting John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and now senior Democratic senator from Ohio.

Garn spoke up, telling Proxmire genially, "Boy, have I got to correct that and talk about John Glenn. I have to correct that before he hears it."

Proxmire responded that what he had meant was that Garn was "the only senator who as a senator went out in space, and came back, too."

"I certainly appreciate that," replied Garn, "but I think a lot of people think a lot of senators have been spaced out for a lot of years."