A year of scandals, retractions, successes

The Republican-led 109th Congress this year passed a slew of major bills, but those accomplishments were overshadowed by the Jack Abramoff scandal, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s (R-Calif.) ethical lapses and investigations of other alleged improprieties of lawmakers.

Republicans passed legislation revamping the nation’s laws on class-action lawsuits, bankruptcy, energy, highway funding and trade this year. But 2005 will be remembered as a good year for Democrats, who are becoming increasingly confident that they will score significant gains in the 2006 elections.

The following is a rundown of the major political events in the first session of the 109th Congress.

January
• Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Calif.) dies
• House passes so-called DeLay rule, then backtracks
• Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) formally challenges presidential election results

February
• Some Democrats hiss at President Bush during his State of the Union address
• Class-action reform passes
• Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) diagnosed with cancer

March
• Congress scrutinizes steroid use in Major League Baseball
• Media spotlight on Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) intensifies
• House and Senate move to save Terri Schiavo’s life

April
• Bankruptcy reform passes
• Bush defends DeLay
• House reverses position on changes to new ethics rules

May
• Reid calls Bush “a loser,” then apologizes
• Social Security reform stalled
• Gang of 14 averts nuclear showdown, strikes deal on judicial nominees

June
• Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) makes gulag comparison to Iraq detainees, later apologizes
• Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) suggests Democrats are anti-Christian, retracts statement
• Nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador falters in the Senate
• Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces her retirement

July
• Amid scandal, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) says he will not seek reelection
• Valerie Plame/CIA leak investigation escalates
• Bush nominates John Roberts Jr. to Supreme Court
• CAFTA, energy and highway bills pass
• Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) speaks out against Bush’s stem-cell policy

August
• Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan criticizes Bush as he vacations at his ranch in Texas
• Reid suffers stroke
• Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies
• Hurricane Katrina strikes Gulf Coast, flooding New Orleans

September
• Congress returns early to pass hurricane-relief bill
• Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) says she wants to punch Bush as criticism mounts of federal and state response to deadly hurricane
• Frist’s selling of HCA stock triggers investigations
• DeLay indicted, steps down as majority leader

October
• Bush nominates Harriet Miers to Supreme Court; conservatives rally against nomination; she later withdraws
• Approval ratings for Bush hover in the high 30s
• Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff is indicted in Plame probe
• Bush nominates Samuel Alito to Supreme Court

November
• Reid shuts down Senate, calling for debate on pre-Iraq war intelligence
• Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) calls for immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq
• Cunningham pleads guilty, resigns from House

December
• Democrats grapple with position on Iraq
• DeLay trial to continue into 2006, hampering his chances of returning to leadership
• Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) wins showdown with White House on detainee bill
• Senate tackles spending reconciliation bill and defense measures after House passage