The 100th Congress, which adjourned with a parting salvo in the war against drugs, may best be remembered for its wrestling over two national controversies - the Iran-Contra affair and the nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court.
Both dramas, played out in ornate committee rooms before national television audiences, involved the lawmakers in bitter feuding among themselves and with the White House.A host of other issues produced a lengthy list of accomplishments over a two-year session that brought to a close the first 200 years of congressional history.
For the first time since 1976, the House and Senate, working furiously, passed all 13 appropriations bills before the start of fiscal 1989 - an event accomplished at three minutes to midnight on Sept. 30, the end of fiscal 1988.
"I think it's been one of the truly great Congresses in my experience and in this century," said House Majority Leader Tom Foley, D-Wash. "It's turned out to be not only a historic Congress, but also an extraordinarily productive one."
Other major legislative accomplishments included:
-A multibillion dollar attack in the war against drugs that features money for rehabilitation, up to $10,000 in civil penalties and loss of federal benefits for personal use of even small amounts of drugs, and a death penalty for drug dealers who murder during drug-related crimes.
-A complex tax package whose main purpose was correcting errors in the 1986 tax overhaul, but also included dozens of tax benefits to one group or another as well as the tax increases to pay for them. It has a three-year price tag of $4.1 billion.
-The first complete overhaul of the federal welfare system since its inception during the depression of the 1930s.
_Ratification of the first U.S.-Soviet arms reduction treaty. The Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces, or INF, treaty requires elimination within three years of all missiles with a range of 300 miles to 3,400 miles.
_A sweeping revision of the trade laws, to reduce the trade surpluses that other countries run with the United States.
_The $18 billion Clean Water Act, passed after two vetoes by President Reagan and designed to improve the quality of many of America's waterways.
_Catastrophic health insurance for millions of elderly or disabled people who receive Medicare, providing free hospital care for lengthy illnesses after the recipient pays the first $564.
_Two civil rights bills, the Civil Rights Restoration Act and the Fair Housing Act.
_An $800 million health package designed to fight the AIDS epidemic, including money for testing, research and home care.
_A $1.2 billion bill providing individual payments of $20,000 to Japanese-American survivors of World War II internment camps established in Western states after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
_Drought relief for crop and livestock producers hit by the summer drought, with a price tag estimated from $3.9 billion to $5.1 billion.
_A package of veterans legislation, including a bill to elevate the Veterans Administration to Cabinet status, an action that will give the new Department of Veterans Affairs additional political clout.
_An $88 billion highway and mass transit bill that permitted states to boost the speed limit on some interstate highways to 65 miles per hour.
_Legislation prohibiting smoking on domestic airline flights of two hours or less, a period that covers the vast majority of commercial flights.
Both Senate Majority Leader Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., and House Speaker Jim Wright, D-Texas, called the 100th Congress the most productive in two decades.
"I believe it is the most productive one since LBJ, 20 years ago," Byrd said, referring to the leadership of Lyndon Baines Johnson and passage of the 1965 Civil Rights Act.
"Perhaps the most productive since 1965-1966," Wright echoed.
Senate Republican Leader Bob Dole of Kansas was perhaps thinking of the session's occasionally raucous, partisan, fighting moments as well as its accomplishments, when he said he could sum everything up with two words: "historic and hysteric."
Wright, who assumed the speaker's chair at the start of the Congress, replacing Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, ended the session the subject of an ethics investigation into whether he abused his office for personal financial gain. A separate ethics probe was under way into whether he violated House rules by disclosing a purported CIA covert operation in Nicaragua.
Congress' prompt action on money matters, partly as a result of the October 1987 stock market crash, meant the government started fiscal 1989 this month without the usual threats of a government-wide shutdown. President Reagan was relieved not to get another catchall spending bill, wrapping together money for hundreds of government programs.
Following the market crash, White House officials and congressional leaders held a series of closed-door meetings for a month, seeking to end a year of clashes over spending and tax levels. Their budget summit of last November produced an agreement _ since adhered to _ that limited tax increases and set caps on spending levels for domestic, military and foreign assistance programs for the last two federal fiscal years.
One of the Congress' earliest acts was to undertake a massive investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. For 14 weeks during the spring and summer of 1987 virtually all other business was shunted into the background while House and Senate committees held unprecedented joint hearings.
Television carried the proceedings to the nation as Lt. Col. Oliver North and his former colleagues wove a tale of a clandestine enterprise extending to four continents. Parallels to Watergate were drawn and suspense built over whether evidence ultimately would link the entire affair directly to Reagan.
The committees reviewed more than 300,000 documents and interviewed more than 500 witnesses as they probed the sale of weapons to Iran and the diversion of some of the "profits" to aid the Contra rebels fighting Nicaragua's leftist government.
Secretary of State George Shultz, who had opposed the arms-for-hostages swap, summed it up for investigators: "Our guys got taken to the cleaners."
But in the end, there was no "smoking gun." In a report issued at the end of 1987, the committees concluded that a "cabal of . . . zealots" had lied, deceived Congress and each other and exhibited disdain for the law. "The ultimate responsibility for the events in the Iran-Contra affair must rest with the president," they concluded.
Of 110 judicial court nominees submitted by Reagan to the Senate, 91 were confirmed. As a result, in nearly eight years in office, Reagan has named just more than half of the active judges on U.S. district and appellate courts and the Supreme Court.
By far the most contentious nomination fight was over Reagan's nomination of Bork to succeed Lewis F. Powell. The conservative nominee had written much that was controversial, and he refused to back down from his criticism of what he saw as the Supreme Court's unconstitutional activism.
It was a fight basically fought out on television, from the live broadcasts of the confirmation hearings and Senate sessions, to the taped commercials from both sides.
Even though clearly defeated, Bork declined to withdraw, insisting on a vote. When it came, he was rejected 58-42. Reagan's second attempt to replace Powell was torpedoed when Douglas H. Ginsburg withdrew as a nominee after conflict of interest questions arose after he admitted smoking marijuana while a Harvard Law School professor.
Reagan's third choice, Anthony M. Kennedy, was confirmed 97-0 last Feb. 3.
The most important social lawmaking done by the 100th Congress was the welfare overhaul bill. A painstaking compromise, the new law requires states to create job, training and education programs and requires welfare mothers of children over 3 to participate in them. States are also told to crack down on child support collection and establish paternity in many more births involving welfare recipients.
The welfare changes are to be phased in over five years at a cost of $3.3 billion. Proponents caution that the act is not a panacea for poverty, but their aim is scarcely less modest. They hope to see the welfare system transformed from a check-mailing operation into an avenue to independence and parental responsibility.
While the welfare bill demonstrated cooperation between the two, Congress took on the Reagan administration over civil rights.
Over Reagan's veto, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Restoration Act to broaden the protections afforded to women, minorities, the elderly and the disabled under four federal civil rights laws.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1984 that only specific programs or activities receiving federal monies had to comply with the four anti-bias statutes. Under thenew law, entire institutions, government agencies and some corporations must comply even if only one activity receives federal funds.