When a scarred and bandaged Minority Leader Harry Reid appeared on the Senate floor for his first speech of the year, the chamber’s new majority leader and Reid’s own top deputy slipped and briefly called him the “majority leader.”
“Let me say first I want to welcome back our colleague, the majority leader. He’s had a challenging month, and we’re happy to see him back here in the Senate and wish him well in his recovery, which looks as if it’s coming along nicely,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, later calling Reid by his current floor title — the Democratic leader.
Aside from his appearance, Reid was his old self, blasting Republicans over the Keystone XL pipeline legislation that occupied the chamber’s first month, as well as the GOP-led effort to stop funding for President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration as part of the current Homeland Security spending debate.
“We should pass a Homeland Security bill with no strings attached to it. That’s where we’re going to wind up,” Reid said.
But in recalling the events that transpired on the floor in his absence, Reid said the Democrats were demonstrating themselves to be “constructive” in their new found minority status. He praised quick passage of the Terrorism Risk Insurance reauthorization and the expected passage of a bill designed to help prevent suicide among veterans, which is now scheduled for early Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve worked hard on suicide and prevention, and we need to keep working on it. Each year in America, 32,000 Americans kill themselves. That doesn’t take into account the car accidents that are not reported properly, hunting accidents, and we have about 24 veterans who kill themselves everyday in America,” Reid said. “We’re going to pass that in a matter of hours tomorrow, and that’s the way it should be.”
Although he didn’t go into the story Monday, it is well known in the Senate Reid’s father committed suicide.
Reid thanked Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee, serving as the presiding officer, for a “very warm” phone call during his recovery period.
“It’s really good to be back. I appreciate the kind remarks of the Republican leader. Sen. McConnell and his lovely wife Elaine have been good to Landra and I over the years, and we appreciate their words of support,” Reid said. “I want to express my appreciation to my colleagues who have so kind and thoughtful during the recovery time.”
Before beginning his own remarks on the Department of Homeland Security’s budget, Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., also called Reid the “majority leader” before quickly correcting himself.
“I found a way to avoid a blizzard in Chicago to be here with you, Harry, because I wanted to be here for this moment,” Durbin said. “It’s a great moment for those of us on the Democratic side of the aisle to have Harry back, and I know it means a lot to him.”
“He may be scarred and beaten up, but there’s no diminution of the fighting spirit that Harry Reid has brought to the Senate floor on so many occasions with his opening remarks,” Durbin said.
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