WASHINGTON—In the midst of negotiating the largest economic bailout ever proposed, congressional leaders agreed Friday that the chaos and volatility of the past week has rekindled a sense of excitement for legislation many had thought lost forever.

"We worked through the weekend, pulled a few all-nighters, and just got back into the whole legislating groove again," Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said. "After all these years of not making a difference, it's nice to know we still got it, baby."

Senators looked proudly to their colleagues in the lower chamber, who weathered thousands of calls and e-mails from panicked citizens, and came together as a group for the first time in years to pass the emergency bill.

"Being able to really bang it out like this—man, it's what being a public servant is all about," said Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), who claimed the historic bailout made him feel like he was 46 years old again. "The air inside the Senate chamber has been electric. Folks haven't been this fired up since Strom Thurmond tried to pass anti-miscegenation legislation back in '59."

The financial crisis also brought back some once-familiar faces to Capitol Hill. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich surprised a large crowd of representatives when he took the congressional stage unannounced Thursday, joining some former colleagues as he added one of his many "classic addenda" to the bill.

"Shit. It feels good to have the gang back together again," the former representative of Georgia's sixth district said. "This is why we all got into politics in the first place. Well, this and the drunken sensation of unchecked power."

Members said they didn't expect the magic to last more than a few days, but remained confident that the passion will resurface again sometime in the next five years, when emergency legislation is required to respond to roving gangs of angry citizens fighting over fresh water and kerosene.