With notable lack of enthusiasm, the lame-duck 81st Congress limped back into Washington this week for one final fling at the legislative process. Only about 250 House members showed up, and a full 25 Senators were absent from the first roll call.

Alben Barkley, with a stuffy nose and a racking cough, presided over the Senate in the old Supreme Court chamber* where there is barely room to swing a cat. Occasionally, he tapped for order with the tiny blob of ivory that serves as his gavel.

On hand were many familiar faces, some soon to be seen around the...

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