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While You Were Sleeping In, Senate Opened And Closed In A Blink

In case you missed it — and we hope you did — the Senate gaveled open at 9:30 a.m. on Friday, and closed up shop 26 seconds later.

On Sunday, the Senate slept in a bit, opening up shop for under a minute at 11 a.m. And today, the day after Christmas, the Senate gaveled open and gaveled closed another one of these meaningless "pro-forma" sessions in less time than it took you to take out your trash bags full of wrapping paper.

Congress is supposed to be in a monthlong recess, yet because Democrats don't  trust President Bush not to make controversial recess appointments while Congress is out of town, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled these short sessions every few days through mid-January.

If the Senate is technically in session, even for a few seconds, Bush can't use his recess appointment power to push through nominees like Hans von Spakovsky for the Federal Election Commission. The work of sitting in the Senate chair and banging the gavel has fallen to freshman Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), because he lives in Northern Virginia, just a few miles from the Capitol.

To put this relatively petty Washington spat in perspective, on this day in 1941 Congress held a dramatic joint session in the Senate chamber to hear an address by Winston Churchill, just three weeks after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

The Senate's unproductive holiday sessions will continue on Friday at 10 a.m.