Democrats Go Home Happy

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WASHINGTON: Well, that's over with. The 105th Congress heads home to the campaign trail Wednesday after the Senate approved a budget bill that most members didn't even have time to read. At 4,000 pages and 40 pounds, with more than 70 legislative throw-ins that have nothing to do with fiscal policy, the 1999 budget sounds like something Ken Starr would dream up -- except that this document is sending Democrats home happy.

Special Report "Democrats are really enjoying the spectacle of an embarrassed Republican party," says TIME congressional correspondent James Carney. "They won on education, and by hanging tough they've kept Republicans off the campaign trail for an extra week." And the budget, which even Democrat Robert Byrd called a "colossal monstrosity," looks to be loaded with pork -- which will prove immensely helpful to Democrats having trouble finding Bill Clinton's good side. Of course, victory for the Democrats in these midterms will likely be measured in how many seats they manage not to lose. But as Carney says, "Democrats are a lot better off than they were when negotiations started."