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In Washington's grey, cavernous Union Station, the crowd was bigger than usual. Two blocks south, waiters in the Capitol restaurants idled among empty tables. The 78th Congress, its mind on the holidays, was. calling it a day and hurriedly piling into homeward-bound Pullmans.

Gathering for the first time on Jan. 6, 1943, the 78th Congress set sail on a high tide of optimism. Minority Leader Joe Martin, congratulating Speaker Sam Rayburn on his reelection, had cried: "This . . . will be a Victory Congress. ..." History will determine just how much the...

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