By its very nature and rules, Congress undergoes certain changes every two years at this point. But in some respects, given the relatively small number of retirees and incumbents losing re-election, fewer changes than normal are taking place as legislators and staff return to Capitol Hill this week. While veteran lawmakers like Republican Sens. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Jesse Helms of North Carolina have departed, relatively few shifts are taking place in the membership of Congress -- particularly considering this was the first election after a decennial redistricting, normally resulting in substantial turnover.

However, a phenomenal degree of turnover has occurred in top congressional leadership positions. Defining "top congressional leadership" as the nine members in the posts of speaker, Senate or House Democratic or Republican leaders or whips, only three -- House Speaker Dennis Hastert, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid -- had those jobs two years ago. Only one other leader, incoming House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, had one of the top nine jobs two years ago, when he was majority whip.

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