Leading the way for the new kids on the block, Democratic house speaker Nancy Pelosi opened her first term in charge with a promise to turn away from old-fashioned political bluster. "Democrats pledge civility and bipartisanship in the conduct of the work here," she vowed in November 2006.
Democrats pledged work would be the priority, even vowing longer workdays. But on issues key to activists, the "do-something" Congress didn't deliver.
"The war is front and center, immigration is front and center and nothing changed on those debates. In fact, the Dems had to bail on the immigration bill," explains Martin Kady from Politico.com.
They promised to stop fully funding the war until the president set a timetable for bringing home the troops, but had to cave when they couldn't persuade enough Republicans to join them.
Democrats did claim early victories in their "Six for 06" agenda, passing and getting the president to sign off on a minimum wage increase, upgrades in homeland security, cuts in college costs, and a new energy bill.
Congress also pushed through a major overhaul of ethics and lobbying rules this year, and got more money for veterans.
But as they headed home for holiday break, many Democrats expressed frustration over how much they had to comprise in 2007. Party leaders admitted they were outgunned.
"The first year of this session has made it painfully clear that congress is divided between democrats who want change and bush republicans, who are satisfied with more of the same, with the status quo," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said last Wednesday.
Martin Kady thinks the Democrats "misread the political will of the Republican opposition."
There's no misreading opinion polls, which are nearly unanimous in finding voters aren't happy with the Democratic majority. The president underscored that with an end-of-the-year dig at the opposition. "When Congress wastes so much time and leaves its work to the final days before Christmas, it is not a responsible way to run this government," he said last week.
But the president may find Democrats even less willing to compromise as the election draws near. So while party leaders on both sides may be talking more goodwill this holiday season, the public may have to just live with more of the same.