By Wayne Woodilef

Nothing better symbolizes the country's need for civility in Washington's new power-sharing climate than Republican President Bush's presence at last Friday's uplifting farewell to Boston's Mr. Democrat, the late U.S. Rep. John Joseph Moakley.

The two parties certainly should continue to strongly argue their differences. But they can do that and still show the kind of mutual respect that's crucial, with the power balance of the government so fragile at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

This is the week, probably by Wednesday, that the Democrats are set to take control of the U.S. Senate again, by a one-vote margin, thanks to Vermont Sen. James Jeffords' titanic defection. And that will make Sens. Edward M. Kennedy and John F. Kerry very big players on the national scene.

Kennedy, just days away from becoming chairman once more of the powerful Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Committee, now has what aides call a "Kennedy Trifecta" in his sights: Enactment of a strong managed care patients' bill of rights, an education law with lots of new money for teachers and other needs - and a $ 1.50 an hour increase in the minimum wage.

And Kerry - mentioned more and more as a prospect for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 - will become chairman of the Senate Small Business Committee, a good bully pulpit for befriending small-town entrepreneurs all over America.

It's a whole new political world Bush faces now, one that calls for even more of the sort of bipartisan kindnesses he paid to Moakley during the president's State of the Union address in January, and the honor of attending his funeral.

That was a remarkable tableau of leaders Moakley brought together in his final act: Bush, reaching out not only to Democrats but to Catholics he hopes to lure for 2004; former President Clinton, still seeking his own political resurrection; Al Gore, who took the popular vote majority from Bush only to lose his presidential dream in the electoral chaos of Florida.

Kennedy was just a seat away from Bush in a front row pew, the two of them often seen in profile together on local telecasts, with Kerry in the pew just behind them.

Think of it. Presidents past, present - and maybe future, as Gore and Kerry must hope - assembled to celebrate the life of a man who knew how to battle politically without demeaning his foes. Let's hope they carry Joe Moakley's spirit into the teeter-totter new world on Capitol Hill.

Both Kennedy and Kerry get it on that point. In separate interviews, both talked of the need to keep reaching out to Republicans, a tactic that Kennedy absolutely mastered and Kerry also adopted during their last six years in the minority.

As Kerry said: "We've still got to be very delicate and consensus-minded, patch together coalitions. The gavels are changing, but not the (basic number of) votes."

Still, as chairman of the Small Business Committee, he wields the gavel now. And Kerry will use it to:

--Hold hearings on how small businesses can be helped to pay the costs of "more environmentally friendly practices" without drowning in excessive expenses. Kerry said small business operators (especially in a slowing economy) have to be assured they can pay for various technologies that curb pollution but can be expensive.

"Maybe we can help with tax credits or low-interest loans or some other way," he said. "But we've got to try to find the solution that has the least cost, is least intrusive but is most effective." It's a good idea. Why does it have to be either-or between profit and environmental protection? Maybe both can be achieved.

--As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee's East Asian subcommittee and the Commerce Committee's oceans and fisheries subcommittee, Kerry can set hearings on such hot-button issues as trade with China and the U.S. fisheries stock, vital for Massachusetts.

Kennedy is bullish about passing a strong patients' bill of rights (not the watered-down version Bush had been pushing) "before the Fourth of July." Break out the fireworks, all ye who have been abused or ignored by the HMOs.

The Senate also is closing in on final action on an education bill that Kennedy helped craft. He wants more money in it than Bush had been prepared to accept. But if, with the changed balance in the Senate, the president has to pay out more to get his cherished testing and accountability systems, he can always say, "The liberal devil made me do it."

The Republican majority also had held a Kennedy-backed minimum wage increase hostage to hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of tax breaks for corporations that the GOP sought. Now, with the Dems in charge, a Kennedy aide said, "the tax breaks are dead on arrival" and the minimum wage hike should advance.

If it does, expect a lot of small business owners to squawk. But it will be a long time before chairman Kerry holds any hearing on THOSE protests.