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Politics

Looking Back at the 111th Congress

2009

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January

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) during the opening session of the 111th Congress in the House of Representatives. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)

3 Rep. Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) is re-elected Speaker on a 255-174 party-line vote. She and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) preside over enlarged Democratic majorities after the 2008 elections.

6 Roland Burris arrives a press conference outside of the Capitol after his attempt to be seated for the Illinois Senate seat was rejected, January 6, 2009. (Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call) Appointee Roland Burris is turned away when he seeks to be seated to President-elect Barack Obama’s former Senate seat. Nine days later, the Illinois Democrat is sworn in after producing appropriate paperwork.

Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), elected vice president in November, resigns from the Senate. Ten days later, Democrat Ted Kaufman is sworn in to replace Biden.

20 Barack Obama is sworn in as the 44th President of the United States by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. (Photo: Bill Clark/Roll Call) A record crowd descends on the National Mall to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as the 44th president, the first Senator to assume the job since John F. Kennedy. Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House for the first time since 1994.

Sen. Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) resigns after being confirmed as Interior secretary. Two days later, Democrat Michael Bennet is sworn in to succeed him.

21 Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) resigns after being confirmed as secretary of State. Two days later, Gov. David Paterson (D) appoints Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand (D) to succeed Clinton. She is sworn in Jan. 27.

President Barack Obama signs an executive order with new ethics rules that aim to restrict the K Street revolving door and curb the influence of lobbyists in his administration.

29 Just two days after it is passed by the House, President Barack Obama signs the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it the first act he signs as president.

30 Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is elected as the first black Republican National Committee chairman.

February

3 Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) withdraws his nomination to be Health and Human Services secretary amid problems with back taxes and potential conflicts of interest.

5 Former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine is elected chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

10 Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), elected in 1955, becomes the longest-serving House Member in history, eclipsing Rep. Jamie Whitten (D-Miss.).

13 President Barack Obama signs into law the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion economic stimulus plan.

23 The Office of Congressional Ethics authorizes its first six reviews. The office opens investigations into 69 incidents through September 2010.

24 Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) resigns after being confirmed as Labor secretary.

26 By a vote of 61-37, the Senate passes a Washington, D.C., voting rights bill for the first time since 1978.

March

2 President Barack Obama nominates Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D) as Health and Human Services secretary and Nancy-Ann DeParle as director of the White House Office of Health Reform.

9 President Barack Obama signs an executive order allowing federal taxpayer dollars to fund broader embryonic stem cell research. The move reverses President George W. Bush’s 2001 policy.

11 President Barack Obama signs the Omnibus Appropriations Act, which provides $410 billion in funding and includes thousands of pet projects inserted by lawmakers. The president says the spending measure should “mark an end to the old way of doing business” as he proposes new rules to restrict earmarks.

31 Democrat Scott Murphy wins a competitive special election to hold the former House seat of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Republican Jim Tedisco does not concede the too-close-to-call race until April 24. Murphy is sworn in April 28.

Rep. Scott Murphy (D-N.Y.) talks to media with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) after he was sworn in on the House floor to become the newest member of Congress. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly)

April

7 Democrat Mike Quigley is elected to succeed former Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), who did not take his seat in January after being named White House chief of staff.

20 Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty at a press conference to discuss a bipartisan bill that would give nearly 600,000 District of Columbia residents full voting representation in the House of Representatives. (Photo: Douglas Graham/Roll Call) House Democratic leaders pull the D.C. voting rights bill from consideration because Republicans inserted a measure that would loosen the city’s gun laws.

28 Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), who polls show is likely to lose a GOP primary against former Rep. Pat Toomey, announces that he will switch parties and run for re-election as a Democrat.

May

20 The Senate passes an amendment to the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2009 to block funds needed for the transfer or release of prisoners held at the Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, detention camp.

26 President Barack Obama nominates U.S. District Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice David Souter.

June

9 House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says Congressional leaders have given up on trying to approve D.C. voting rights legislation because of the gun-control amendment.

16 Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), who was exploring a 2012 presidential run, acknowledges having an extramarital affair with a former campaign staffer who is married to his former top legislative aide.

22 President Barack Obama signs the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, giving the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate the tobacco industry. The law imposes new warnings and labels on tobacco packaging and their advertisements.

24 President Barack Obama signs the Supplemental Appropriations Act into law, providing funding for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The measure also includes the Cash for Clunkers provision. The administration vows the war supplemental will be the last of its kind, as war funding will be provided for in regular budget bills.

26 The House passes the American Clean Energy and Security Act by a vote of 219-212. The cap-and-trade legislation would place limits on emissions and pollution and fine companies that exceed those limits.

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) resigns after being confirmed as under secretary for arms control and international security.

July

7 Vice President Joe Biden, right, swears in Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) during a mock swearing in ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber, July 7, 2009. (Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call) Democrat Al Franken is sworn in as the junior Senator from Minnesota, ending the state’s protracted 2008 election. His seating gives Democrats a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.

31 House Members return home for the August recess, which is marked by reports of raucous town halls as anger and debate over health care reform reach a fever pitch nationwide.

August

6 The Senate votes to confirm Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice by a vote of 68–31.

7 Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) announces he is resigning to pursue private-sector employment. Martinez, the only Hispanic Republican in the Senate, was not seeking re-election in 2010.

Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) are cleared by the Senate Ethics Committee of any wrongdoing in receiving loans through a special program run by Countrywide Financial Corp. The Ethics panel writes that the Senators should have used better judgment.

25 Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), 77, dies in Hyannis Port, Mass., after a lengthy battle with brain cancer. After a funeral Mass in Boston, the motorcade carrying Kennedy’s body stops at the East Front of the Capitol on its way to Arlington National Cemetery, where he is buried near his two brothers.

The hearse carrying Sen. Ted Kennedy arrives at the U.S. Capitol in front of the Senate steps during the funeral procession. On the steps are friends, staffers and members of congress. (Photo: Ricky Carioti)

September

9 Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouts, "You lie!" as President Barack Obama addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress at the U.S. Capitol September 9, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) During a joint address to Congress by President Barack Obama, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouts, “You lie!” when Obama says the health care reform measure will not insure illegal immigrants. Wilson attracts national and international attention for the incident, which helps him and his Democratic opponent raise millions of dollars for their campaigns.

10 Republican George LeMieux is sworn in to replace Mel Martinez as the junior Senator from Florida.

15 The House ethics committee announces it will defer an investigation into Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s (D-Ill.) ties to disgraced former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) pending the Justice Department’s probe into allegations he orchestrated a pay-to-play scheme to fill President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat.

21 Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.) resigns after being confirmed as secretary of the Army.

25 Democrat Paul Kirk is sworn in to fill the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) Senate seat. Kirk will serve only until a successor is elected in January 2010.

October

9 President Barack Obama wins the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the third sitting U.S. president to be honored.

22 Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) becomes the third-longest-serving Senator in history, passing the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.).

28 President Barack Obama signs a federal hate-crimes law that expands the definition of violent federal hate crimes to cover crimes motivated by a victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

November

3 Democrat Bill Owens wins the special election to succeed former Rep. John McHugh (R-N.Y.). Owens is quickly sworn in to office Nov. 6 even though a vote recanvass shows his lead shrinking with a major health care vote looming.

Republicans pick up the governorships in Virginia and New Jersey.

Protesters opposed to government run health care chant before the House Republicans' rally on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009. (Photo: Bill Clark/Roll Call)

5 At least 10,000 tea party activists descend on the National Mall and Capitol grounds for a rally against the Democratic-written health care bill.

7 The House passes the Affordable Health Care for America Act by a vote of 220-215, sending the landmark legislation to the Senate.

20 The Senate Ethics Committee admonishes Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) for discrediting himself and the Senate while seeking appointment to President Barack Obama’s former seat. Burris was appointed by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who faces a retrial in April 2011 on public corruption charges.

December

22 Freshman Rep. Parker Griffith (D-Ala.) announces he is switching parties and joining the GOP. Six months later, Griffith is handily defeated in the GOP primary.

24 The Senate passes health care reform legislation by a vote of 60-39 on the 25th straight day of debate on the bill. It is the first time since 1895 the Senate convenes for a Christmas Eve vote. During the week, 92-year-old Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), in fragile health, receives standing ovations when he shows up for early morning votes in a historic blizzard.

January

6 In a 24-hour period, Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Byron Dorgan (N.D.) announce they will retire at the end of the 111th Congress, becoming the first Democratic Senate retirements of the cycle.

15 Senator-elect Scott Brown, R-Mass., arrives outside of Russell Building for rounds of meetings with Senators, Jan. 21, 2010. (Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call) Republican Scott Brown wins the special election to fill the late Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) Senate seat in Massachusetts, an upset that buoys Republicans nationwide and robs Democrats of a 60-seat majority.

20 Tareq and Michaele Salahi, the Virginia couple that crashed President Barack Obama’s first state dinner in November, appear at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on the incident. The couple repeatedly invoke their Fifth Amendment right not to testify.

21 The Supreme Court rules 5-4 in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to allow unions and corporations to spend unlimited funds on federal political activities as long as they do not coordinate their efforts with campaigns or parties.

February

8 Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) dies at age 77 of complications from gallbladder surgery.

13 President Barack Obama signs legislation to revive pay-as-you-go budget rules, although the new version includes a long list of exceptions. The measure also lifts the federal debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion from $12.4 trillion.

25 President Barack Obama, administration officials and Congressional stakeholders gather at the Blair House for a daylong, unprecedented summit on health care, which is carried live on television.

The House ethics committee rules that two Caribbean trips involving six Congressional Black Caucus members violated House rules that prohibit corporate-funded travel. The ethics panel admonishes Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) because his staff was aware of the conflict but exonerates the remaining five lawmakers.

26 The House ethics committee closes its investigation into earmarks connected to the PMA Group, concluding that no Members or their staff exchanged earmarks for campaign contributions with the now-defunct lobbying firm.

March

2 Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) relents on his one-man filibuster of extending unemployment insurance, and the Senate votes 78-19 to pass the 30-day extension.

3 Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) announces he will surrender his Ways and Means Committee gavel while the ethics committee completes its investigation of him.

House Republicans approve a Conference-wide moratorium on earmarks, one day after the House Appropriations Committee enacted a ban on for-profit earmarks.

8 Freshman Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) resigns days after it is revealed that he is under investigation by the House ethics committee for allegedly sexually harassing a male staffer.

From left, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Rep. John Larson, D-Conn., come down the steps of the Canon House Office Building as they walk to the Capitol for the vote on healthcare reform on Sunday, March 21, 2010. (Photo: Bill Clark/Roll Call)

21 By a vote of 219-212, the House approves health care reform legislation.

23 President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders gather at the White House for a signing ceremony for health care legislation. After Vice President Joseph Biden introduces Obama, a microphone picks up Biden telling the president: “This is a big f---ing deal.”

25 The Senate approves the heath care reconciliation bill by a vote of 56-43. The House approves the measure again, by a 220-207 vote, and it moves to President Barack Obama’s desk. The final amended version of the bill is signed March 30.

April

20 House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) announces that lawmakers will not take up Washington, D.C., voting rights legislation, effectively killing the effort in the 111th Congress to give residents voting representation.

May

8 Sen. Bob Bennett is denied renomination at the Utah GOP nominating convention. He finishes third in balloting, preventing him from advancing to a statewide primary.

10 U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan, nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, arrives for her meeting with Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., in his office on Wednesday, May 26, 2010. (Photo: Bill Clark/Roll Call) President Barack Obama nominates Solicitor General Elena Kagan to succeed retiring Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

12 Fourteen-term Rep. Alan Mollohan (W.Va.) is defeated in a Democratic primary, becoming the first of four House Members to lose a primary.

18 Rep. Mark Souder (R-Ind.) announces he will resign from Congress after admitting to an affair with a district office aide.

Rep. Joe Sestak defeats party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s Democratic primary.

Democrat Mark Critz wins the hotly contested special election to succeed the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).

22 Republican Charles Djou wins an unusual three-way special election to succeed former Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii), who resigned Feb. 28 to concentrate on running for governor.

June

17 An ethics investigative subcommittee adopts a Statement of Alleged Violation charging Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) with 13 counts of violating House rules.

24 The House passes the DISCLOSE Act, a legislative response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, by a vote of 219-206. The bill would require organizations to disclose the identity of their large donors and reveal their identities in political ads they fund. The measure includes an exemption targeted at the National Rifle Association.

28 Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), the longest-serving Member of Congress in history, dies at age 92. Known for his oratory and as a champion of the Constitution and Senate rules, Byrd lay in repose in the chamber for six hours on July 1. It was the first time a Senator’s body had lain in repose in the chamber since 1959, the year Byrd joined the Senate.

The flag-draped coffin carrying Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, passes through the U.S. Capitol in Washington on July 1, 2010. Byrd, who died at 92 and was the longest serving Senator in history, will lie in repose in the Senate Chamber until he is moved to West Virginia later today. (Photo: Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI)

July

1 As part of a procedural vote on an emergency war supplemental bill, House Democrats attach a document that deems as passed a $1.1 trillion budget. The document allows Congress to start spending for fiscal 2011 without a budget. The procedural vote passed 215-210.

A sandwich board outside of of Skip Jack Seafood in Houma, LA, blames BP and President Obama for the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and subsequent restrictions of seafood harvesting in the Gulf and surrounding areas, July 2, 2010. (Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call)

12 President Barack Obama issues an offshore drilling moratorium eight days after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster off the Louisiana coast. Obama’s initial efforts to get a temporary moratorium are thwarted by federal courts. The ban is lifted in October.

20 Democrat Carte Goodwin is sworn in to fill the vacancy created by the death of Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.). Goodwin is appointed by Gov. Joe Manchin (D), who announces the same day that he is running for the seat in a November special election.

21 President Barack Obama signs a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system. The Wall Street reform bill, named for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), faced a protracted legislative battle and was the target of fierce lobbying by banks and business groups.

A group of two dozen House Republicans led by Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) officially launches the Congressional Tea Party Caucus, seeking to harness grass-roots conservative energy and build a bridge between lawmakers and the movement.

22 Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announces the Senate will not take up comprehensive energy reform legislation, effectively killing the cap-and-trade measure passed by the House.

26 Quadriplegic Rep. James Langevin (D-R.I.) presides over the House for the first time on the 20th anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act after the Speaker’s rostrum is updated to be wheelchair accessible.

28 A House ethics subcommittee charges Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) with violating House rules over allegations that her chief of staff (who is also her grandson) tried to secure federal support for a bank in which Waters and her husband held hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock. Waters denies wrongdoing in the case.

29 President Barack Obama signs a $59 billion emergency war supplemental bill that provides $33.5 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including adding 30,000 troops in Afghanistan.

30 The House votes to end the federal moratorium on deep-water drilling for oil companies that meet new federal safety requirements.

August

5 The Senate confirms Solicitor General Elena Kagan as a Supreme Court justice by a vote of 63-37. Five Republicans vote in favor while one Democrat is opposed.

9 Former Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska) dies in a plane crash in southwest Alaska. Stevens, who was defeated in 2008, was the longest-serving Republican Senator in history.

23 A federal district judge blocks President Barack Obama’s March 2009 executive order that expanded embryonic stem cell research.

31 Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) concedes defeat to Republican primary opponent Joe Miller one week after the election. Seventeen days later, she announces she will run as a write-in candidate in November.

September

14 Tea-party-backed candidate Christine O’Donnell upsets Rep. Mike Castle in Delaware’s GOP Senate primary, a victory that essentially ensures Democrats will keep a seat Republicans were expected to take over.

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, conducts a news conference in Tart Lumber Company in Sterling, Va., to unveil "A Pledge to America," a governing agenda devised by House Republicans for the 111th Congress.  Also appearing are, from left, Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. (Photo: Tom Williams/Roll Call)

23 At a lumber company in Sterling, Va., House Republicans formally unveil their "Pledge to America", a new governing agenda that is the product of input from Americans. It has three priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending and changing the way Congress works.

24 For the second time Democrats fail to garner 60 votes to invoke cloture on the DISCLOSE Act, effectively killing the measure written in response to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling.

Comedian Stephen Colbert testifies, in character, at a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on immigrant farm workers.

October

1 White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel resigns to run for mayor of Chicago. Senior Obama adviser Pete Rouse is selected as interim chief of staff.

28 Conservative commentator Glenn Beck draws thousands of activists for the Restoring Honor rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s "I Have a Dream" speech.

30 Comedy Central fake news show anchors Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert draw thousands to the National Mall for the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear.

November

2 Democrats lose six Senate seats and more than 60 House seats in the midterm elections, more than enough to hand Republicans the House majority in the 112th Congress and make Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) Speaker. Fifty-two House Democrats lose re-election. Senate Democrats avoid a leadership fight when Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) wins another term.

5 Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announces she will run for Minority Leader in the 112th Congress despite her party’s heavy election losses. Blue Dog Rep. Heath Shuler (D-N.C.) mounts a token bid against her, but she is easily elected to the post on Nov. 17 by a vote of 150-43.

15 Democrats Chris Coons and Joe Manchin are sworn in to replace appointed Sens. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) and Carte Goodwin (D-W.Va.), respectively, who resigned. Coons and Manchin won November special elections to fill unexpired terms. A Code Pink representative holds a sign during the Senate Armed Services hearing with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates  on the U.S. military's  'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy regarding gay and lesbian service members. (Photo: Scott J. Ferrell/CQ)

29 Congress returns for a lame-duck session where debate over the extension of tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush, repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty are front and center.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R), elected to a full term and in a special election in November, is sworn in to replace appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), who resigned.

President Barack Obama calls for a two-year pay freeze for federal civilian workers that administration officials say would result in federal savings of $60 billion.

December

1 The Justice Department announces it will not charge Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) in its investigation of his alleged efforts to cover up of his affair with Cynthia Hampton, the wife of Ensign’s former top aide.

2 The House votes to censure Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), approving the punishment recommended by the House ethics committee after a one-day trial that Rangel boycotted.

3 Disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff completes his prison term.

6 President Barack Obama announces a $858 billion deal with Republicans that will extend Bush-era tax cuts for two years in exchange for unemployment insurance. Nine days later, the Senate passes the measure by a 81-19 vote.

8 The House passes the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought into the U.S. as children, by a vote of 216-198. The bill faces dismal prospects for passage in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to invoke cloture.

9 A defense bill containing language to repeal the military’s "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy falls short of the 60 votes needed to overcome a GOP filibuster. Six days later the House takes up a standalone DADT repeal measure.

13 Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele, whose two-year tenure has been marred by controversy, announces he will seek a second term in January. A handful of candidates line up to challenge him.

16 The House Judiciary Committee convenes the first Congressional hearing on legal issues surrounding the controversial WikiLeaks website, which began releasing U.S. diplomatic cables in November.