Harry Reid Apologizes For Nasty Rhetoric On Senate Floor


SEN. HARRY REID: Mr. President, following the suggestion in the prayer of Admiral Black, I want to take a few minutes to talk about Senate decorum, Senate procedure. This is constructive criticism for the entire Senate and self-criticism for me. Mr. President, I think we've all here in the Senate kind of lost the aura of Robert Byrd, who was such a stickler for Senate procedure. I think we've all let things get away from us a little bit. 

The Senate is a very special place with very particular rules. These rules help to keep debate among senators civil, even when we're discussing matters on which senators completely disagree. One of those rules concerns how we address each other here in the Senate. The practice that we observe is that when senators speak, they address themselves only to the presiding officer. “Mr. President,” through you to the senator from Missouri -- or whatever the case might be. When senators refer to other senators -- and this is something we all have to listen to -- whether those other senators are in the chamber or not, senators must address and refer to each other in the third person and through the chair. Thus, senators should refer to "the senator from Vermont" or "the senator from Illinois," or “the senator from Nevada,” or “the chairman of the Appropriations Committee” or the “President pro tempore,” or "the manager of the bill." Senators should avoid using other senators' first names. And senators should avoid addressing other senators directly as "you." 

These rules are a little unusual, but they've been in place here for a couple centuries, Mr. President. As people will generally talk directly to other people, if they're in the same room with each other, that's a little unusual, because that isn't how we address one another. But the Senate rules preserve distance, a little distance, not a lot of distance, but a little distance. So senators are more likely to debate ideas and less likely to talk about personalities. And I think all of us, and that’s why I said, Mr. President – Madam President. Sorry, I didn’t see the chair changing -- Directing a little self-criticism here, I think we all have to understand that these rules create a little bit of distance so that senators are more likely to debate ideas and less likely talk about personalities. And if we do that we maintain a more civil decorum as a result. So, I bring this to the attention of senators because we've fallen out of habit. It has gotten worse the last month or so. I will work harder and I hope my senators will do their best to maintain these habits of civility and decorum moving forward. The parliamentarians and presiding officers have all been directed to make sure we do a better job of following the basic rules of the Senate.

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