1996: A Year of Celebrations for Old and Young Alike

Posted April 15, 2005 at 3:25pm

In the second year after their historic rise to power in the House and Senate, more than just the Republican Revolution was maturing.

The year 1996 saw a venerable institution of the Senate reach a historic milestone, while in the House, a true Washington power couple celebrated a special event and one of their colleagues produced a power couple of her own.

In March, South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond, at 93 years and 94 days went down in the books as “the oldest sitting Senator in history, breaking the record set by Sen. Theodore Green (D-R.I.), who served in the Senate from 1937 to 1961.”

The arrivals of three little ones born to Members on both sides of the aisle were also big news in 1996. Roll Call reported in June that “this Congress holds the undisputed record as the most fertile in history.”

Then-Reps. Susan Molinari (R-N.Y.) and Bill Paxon (R-N.Y.) celebrated the birth of a daughter, Susan Ruby, in May, while Arkansas Democratic Rep. (and future Sen.) Blanche Lambert Lincoln gave birth to fraternal twins, Meyers Reece and Stephen Bennett, in June.

But the celebrations weren’t all that happened in 1996, as jousting between Congress and the Clinton administration reached new levels of ferocity, and Democrats sought unsuccessfully to regain their majorities in the House and Senate.

Pressure also continued to mount on the fledgling Speakership of Georgia Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich, as Democrats hounded the firebrand conservative with ethics charges, generating a drumbeat that would continue until the first Republican Speaker in 40 years eventually shocked Washington and the nation by relinquishing his post after a setback at the polls in the 1998 elections.