Adjournment Wednesday also marked the end of Democrats' four years of controlling the U.S. House of Representatives led by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is expected to relinquish the gavel to Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, when the 112th Congress convenes Jan. 5, The Hill reported Thursday.
In the Senate, lawmakers fled Capitol Hill after casting their final two roll-call votes on the new U.S.-Russia nuclear arms reduction treaty and the nomination of Mary Helen Murguia to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"This was, by far, the most productive Congress in American history," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "And the lame-duck session we're finishing was the most productive of its kind. Why? Because we heard the message the American people sent us last month: They don't want us to sit around and waste their time. They want us to work together and work for them."
Senate Democrats and Republicans united to pass major pieces of legislation, including $858 billion in tax relief and unemployment benefits, repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy and ratification of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Reid also noted passage of reforms to the U.S. healthcare system and financial services industry before the midterm elections.
"This lame duck is typical of the Congress. It's a very productive Congress," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Armed Services Committee.
Several Senate Republicans expressed displeasure at the last-minute flurry while others pointed to victories the party won during the lame duck, notably blocking an effort to pass a $1.1 billion omnibus spending package and passage of the tax package that extended Bush-era tax cuts, among other things, The Hill said.
"I give (President Obama) credit for being willing to go along with Republicans" on the tax bill, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said. "The left wasn't happy with that. It was a big, big Republican accomplishment. That was the biggest thing in the whole lame duck."