A year of scandals, retractions, successes

The Republican-led 109th Congress this year passed a slew of major bills, but those accomplishments were overshadowed by the Jack Abramoff scandal, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s (R-Calif.) ethical lapses and investigations of other alleged improprieties of lawmakers.

Republicans passed legislation revamping the nation’s laws on class-action lawsuits, bankruptcy, energy, highway funding and trade this year. But 2005 will be remembered as a good year for Democrats, who are becoming increasingly confident that they will score significant gains in the 2006 elections.

The following is a rundown of the major political events in the first session of the 109th Congress.

• Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Calif.) dies
• House passes so-called DeLay rule, then backtracks
• Sen. Barbara BoxerBarbara Boxer House passes water bill with Flint aid, drought relief Fight over water bill heats up in Senate Dem senator tears up in farewell speech MORE (D-Calif.) formally challenges presidential election results

• Some Democrats hiss at President Bush during his State of the Union address
• Class-action reform passes
• Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) diagnosed with cancer

• Congress scrutinizes steroid use in Major League Baseball
• Media spotlight on Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) intensifies
• House and Senate move to save Terri Schiavo’s life

• Bankruptcy reform passes
• Bush defends DeLay
• House reverses position on changes to new ethics rules

• Reid calls Bush “a loser,” then apologizes
• Social Security reform stalled
• Gang of 14 averts nuclear showdown, strikes deal on judicial nominees

• Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinGOP eyes big gamble on ObamaCare Senate Democrats dig in as shutdown approaches Overnight Finance: Senate Dems dig in as shutdown looms | Trump taps fast-food exec for Labor chief | Portland's new CEO tax MORE (D-Ill.) makes gulag comparison to Iraq detainees, later apologizes
• Rep. John Hostettler (R-Ind.) suggests Democrats are anti-Christian, retracts statement
• Nomination of John Bolton to be U.N. ambassador falters in the Senate
• Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announces her retirement

• Amid scandal, Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) says he will not seek reelection
• Valerie Plame/CIA leak investigation escalates
• Bush nominates John Roberts Jr. to Supreme Court
• CAFTA, energy and highway bills pass
• Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) speaks out against Bush’s stem-cell policy

• Anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan criticizes Bush as he vacations at his ranch in Texas
• Reid suffers stroke
• Chief Justice William Rehnquist dies
• Hurricane Katrina strikes Gulf Coast, flooding New Orleans

• Congress returns early to pass hurricane-relief bill
• Sen. Mary LandrieuMary LandrieuFive unanswered questions after Trump's upset victory Pavlich: O’Keefe a true journalist Trump’s implosion could cost GOP in Louisiana Senate race MORE (D-La.) says she wants to punch Bush as criticism mounts of federal and state response to deadly hurricane
• Frist’s selling of HCA stock triggers investigations
• DeLay indicted, steps down as majority leader

• Bush nominates Harriet Miers to Supreme Court; conservatives rally against nomination; she later withdraws
• Approval ratings for Bush hover in the high 30s
• Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff is indicted in Plame probe
• Bush nominates Samuel Alito to Supreme Court

• Reid shuts down Senate, calling for debate on pre-Iraq war intelligence
• Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) calls for immediate withdrawal of troops in Iraq
• Cunningham pleads guilty, resigns from House

• Democrats grapple with position on Iraq
• DeLay trial to continue into 2006, hampering his chances of returning to leadership
• Sen. John McCainJohn McCainSenate votes to elevate Cyber Command in military Senate sends annual defense bill to Obama's desk Trump really can't do much to reduce tensions with Putin's Russia MORE (R-Ariz.) wins showdown with White House on detainee bill
• Senate tackles spending reconciliation bill and defense measures after House passage