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.

• Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Calif.) dies
• House passes so-called DeLay rule, then backtracks
• Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerThe ‘bang for the buck’ theory fueling Trump’s infrastructure plan Kamala Harris endorses Gavin Newsom for California governor Dems face hard choice for State of the Union response MORE (D-Calif.) formally challenges presidential election results

• 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

• 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

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

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

• Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinDemocrats protest Trump's immigration policy from Senate floor Live coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Hugh Hewitt to Trump: 'It is 100 percent wrong to separate border-crossing families' MORE (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

• 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

• 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

• Congress returns early to pass hurricane-relief bill
• Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuLandrieu dynasty faces a pause in Louisiana Senate GOP rejects Trump’s call to go big on gun legislation Project Veritas at risk of losing fundraising license in New York, AG warns MORE (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

• 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

• 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

• Democrats grapple with position on Iraq
• DeLay trial to continue into 2006, hampering his chances of returning to leadership
• Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's America fights back Mellman: Trump can fix it GOP strategist Steve Schmidt denounces party, will vote for Democrats MORE (R-Ariz.) wins showdown with White House on detainee bill
• Senate tackles spending reconciliation bill and defense measures after House passage