West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, 92, was discovered dead in his Senate seat yesterday, explaining his recent string of abstentions when votes were taken but leaving open the age-old question of precisely how to determine a dead Senator from a live one.
Senator Byrd was the longest serving member of Congress, and was particularly faithful in attendance during this last decade during which he was, in fact, dead. As many of his colleages exhibited the same symptoms of lethary, dullness of expression, immobility and refusal to be pinned down by a vote, ten years had elapsed between Sen. Byrd's passing and the discovery of same.
Currently all members of Congress are being tested for life. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's suggestion that sharp objects be used, particularly on the opposition party members, was thought to have merit, the final decision is to have clerks politely attempt to greet each member while taking the opportunity for a good whiff.
Since many members of Congress are fairly 'whiffy' even with a pulse, this more discrete method may take some time to complete and produce a full tally of Congressional members who are still among the living.
Several clerks are also checking the loo and the Senatorial jacuzzi for members who exhibit symptoms of non-life: blank expressions, long silences, refusal to comment on camera and obnoxious expressions or odors.
This important government project is expected to be completed sometime in the year 2012. In the meantime, all members of Congress are assumed to be alive and fully capable of representing their respective states and districts.