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So Long To Capitol Hill

Congress loses some of its most venerable members this year.

As the 105th Congress comes to a close Wednesday, a number of lawmakers are heading home for good.

Some are exhausted by the pace and poison of today's politics, while others are just finding the years catching up with them. One, Sen. John Glenn, is heading for outer space.

CLICK HERE for a list of departing legislators.
Among those who are casting their last votes are Sen. Wendell Ford of Kentucky, the Senate Democratic Whip; Rep. Joseph McDade of Pennsylvania, the oldest-serving Republican in the House; and Kennedy family scion Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass.

Rep. Joseph McDade, R-Pa.

There's also Rep. Louis Stokes, D-Ohio, his state's first and only black representative; Rep. Vic Fazio of California, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus; Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., who chaired the House Iran-Contra hearings; and Rep. Gerald Solomon, the outspoken conservative who chairs the House Rules Committee.

In the House, 17 Democrats and 16 Republicans leave office at the end of this session. Five others, including Energy Secretary Bill Richardson, stepped down during the two-year term, and four lawmakers, among them Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif., died during the session.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy, D-Mass.

The total is down somewhat from the last Congress that ended in 1996. More than 50 resigned during or after that session.

In the Senate, Democrats Ford, Glenn and Dale Bumpers of Arkansas — all elected in 1974 — are resigning. Republicans are losing two of their younger members, Dirk Kempthorne, 46, who is running for governor of Idaho, and Indiana's Dan Coats, 55.

Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio

A dozen House members are seeking other offices. Reps. Barbara Kennelly, D-Conn., and Glenn Poshard, D-Ill., are running for governor. Reps. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Bob Inglis, R-S.C., Linda Smith, R-Wash., Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, Mark Neumann, R-Wis., and John Ensign, R-Nev., are running for Senate seats. In Kentucky, Republican Jim Bunning and Democrat Scotty Baesler are vying for Wendell Ford's Senate seat.

Many have said they want to spend more time with their families. Solomon, in announcing his retirement, said his wife pointed out they had taken only five real vacation days in 20 years. "I was totally embarrassed," he said.

Rep. Vic Fazio, D-Calif.

Rep. Paul McHale, D-Pa.,48, the only Democrat to openly urge President Clinton to resign over his sex scandal, said he made up his mind after his 7-year-old son complained that "you've been gone my whole life."

Others said they were just fed up with the constant demands for fundraising and the way partisan politicking too often takes precedence over national interests.

"I do not relish, in fact I detest, the idea of having to raise $5 million for a job that pays $133,000 a year," Kentucky's Ford said.

"Many bills are carefully crafted to achieve maximum political benefit and little else," said Bumpers, adding, "It's not much fun being in the minority."

Others who weren't having much fun were Kennedy, weighed down by family scandals and the death of his brother Michael in a skiing accident. Rep. Bill Paxon, R-N.Y., announced his retirement seven months after he lost a party leadership position for his role in an aborted coup against House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

"I will never run for office again. Never. Not even for dog warden," said Paxon, 44, who with his wife Susan Molinari represented the GOP's model young couple. She quit her House seat last year to pursue a television career.

Pennsylvania's McDade, who was first elected in 1962, also leaves Congress after surviving a lengthy legal battle from charges that he accepted illegal campaign contributions. He was acquitted in 1996, but lost a chance to become chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee.

Age was the obvious factor for Rep. Sid Yates, D-Ill. Now 89, he was first elected in 1948 and has served longer than anyone in the House. Rep. Henry Gonzalez, D-Tex., who at 83 is a 37-year veteran of thHouse, will also be stepping down.

Of all the legislators leaving Capitol Hill this session, nobody's reason can rival that of John Glenn. At 77, Glenn is just a few year's shy of his most senior counterparts. But on Oct. 29 he will become the oldest astronaut in NASA's history when he participates in the space shuttle Discovery's latest mission. He too cited age as a reason for leaving Congress. "There is still no cure for the common birthday," according to Glenn.

By Jim Abrams

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