Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), may have became the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives on Wednesday, but he isn't the only member of Congress making history.
When Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) voted Monday on the motion to close debate on the Senate's $838 billion economic stimulus bill, it marked the 5,400th time that he has not missed a vote. And he made it 5,401 on Tuesday when he joined 36 other Republicans in an unsuccessful attempt to delay final passage of the massive bill.
Grassley hasn't missed a vote since July 20, 1993, and he had a good excuse for that rare lapse. It was because he accompanied President Clinton to Iowa to view flood damage.
While Grassley owns the record for the longest streak of successive votes among current senators, he still has a long way to go before catching up with the late William Proxmire (D-Wis.). Proxmire set a record that probably will never be broken when he cast 10,252 successive votes between April 20, 1966 and October 18, 1988, according to the Senate historian's office.
Grassley long ago surpassed Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), among current senators with the longest unblemished voting streak. Byrd had 4,705 successive votes between July 25, 1984 and Sept. 9, 1997, a string that was broken when he fell ill.
Grassley is closing in on another milestone as well. With his 59 votes this year, he has cast a total of 9,927 votes since coming to the Senate in 1981 - he only missed 35 votes altogether - and is soon likely to become the 10th current senator to cast 10,000 votes.
Byrd leads that group with 18,372 votes through 2008, followed by Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), 15,226; Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), 15,184; Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), 12,907; Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), 11,897; Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), 11,701; Carl Levin (D-Mich.), 10,806; Max Baucus (D-Mont.), 10,689; and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), 10,613. Until he resigned to become vice president, Joe Biden (D-Del.) was fifth among current senators with a total of 12,808 votes during 25 years in the Senate.
Ironically, Grassley's impressive voting performance was verified by the Senate Democratic Policy Committee's Vote Information Office, which keeps track of all Senate votes. A Senate Republican Policy Committee aide said, "We don't have that information."
Grassley, who is the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, dismissed the historical significance of his voting record.
"The record in itself doesn't mean much except for a lot of people who are cynical about government," he said. "They wonder if you're on the job or just horsing around, and I always say that when we're voting in Washington, then I'm in Washington voting, and when we're not voting in Washington, then I'm in Iowa holding meetings in each of Iowa's 99 counties. You can quantify it for people."