Unlike the tumultuous and dramatic change of two years ago, the 102nd Congress convenes Thursday with the same cast of party leaders, and this year none of them are facing charges of misconduct.
Democrats and Republicans, in the Senate and in the House, have voted to stick with the leaders who guided them through the last two years despite the ugly rank-and-file revolt in the House over the budget and a series of mini-insurgencies on other legislation.The aura of good will between the lawmakers and their party leaders is much more in the tradition of Congress where changes at the top are very rare - partly out of loyalty, partly out of fear of retribution.
But it wasn't that way a year ago on the eve of the 101st Congress.
In the House, Rep. Jim Wright, D-Texas, was elected speaker, third in line to the presidency and considered one of the strongest House leaders since fellow Texan Sam Rayburn, although he was already under investigation for series of financial dealings.
Democrats also elected as "whip," or assistant leader, the popular Rep. Tony Coelho, D-Calif., a master fund-raiser and a rising star in the House whose questionable investment in a "junk bond" was about to explode.
Under intense pressure, Wright resigned June 6, 1989, seven weeks after the House Ethics Committee found that he might have broken the rules in at least 60 instances. He was the first speaker ever to resign in midterm.
Coelho, sidestepping an investigation by the ethics committee, resigned from the House nine days later.
The fall of Wright and Coelho forced a major change in the House Democratic leadership.
Rep. Thomas Foley, D-Wash., the likable laid-back Democratic leader, was elected speaker; Rep. Richard Gephardt, D-Mo., a 1988 candidate for the Democratic nomination, was chosen Democratic leader; Rep. William Gray, D-Pa., moved up from chairman of the Democratic caucus to succeed Coelho in the No. 3 spot, and Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., became chairman of the caucus.
That slate, put together in the aftermath of the Wright and Coelho scandals, has been kept in place for the 102nd Congress.
In the Senate, after 12 years as Democratic leader and his prospects for two more years dim, Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., stepped aside, opening the way for Senate Democratic leader George Mitchell of Maine, who will now begin his third year as head of the majority party.
But the Democrats have a new assistant leader, Sen. Wendell Ford, D-Ky., who won without opposition when the 12-year incumbent, Sen. Alan Cranston, D-Calif., pulled out, suffering from cancer and under investigation as one of the senators involved in the "Keating Five" savings and loan scandal.
Sen. David Pryor, D-Ark., remains as No. 3 leader.