WASHINGTON – Call it the historic Senate session that wasn't.
The Senate was supposed to officially meet outside the Capitol building for only the second time in almost two centuries on Tuesday but a last-minute move by the rival House of Representative scotched plans for the 30-second pro forma session.
Instead, plans to meet in an adjacent Senate office building — to meet the constitutional requirement to meet at least every three days in cases when the House and Senate haven't mutually agreed to adjourn — were scrapped at the last minute.
But it turned out that the House, which was unable to pass an official adjournment resolution last week because members didn't want to appear like they were abandoning Washington with so much work undone, did so just by unanimous voice just before the Senate was to meet.
The Senate chamber is undergoing renovations and the usual backup location, the Old Senate Chamber — site of closed-door deliberations in the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton — is being renovated, too.
So a couple of dozen clerks, police officers and other officials trooped over to a nondescript hearing room in a Senate office building for a pro forma session. Such meetings are so short that there's no prayer or even a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. Alas, no session, but the group posed for pictures anyway. Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., the erstwhile presiding officer was nowhere to be seen, however.
The only other time the Senate had officially met outside the Capitol since it was damage by fire in the War of 1812, was last year after it was jolted by a powerful earthquake that sent Senate officials scrambling to find a temporary home in a nearby building just a couple of blocks away. Ten years ago, the Senate had a ceremonial session for the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.