The Washington Times - April 6, 2011, 10:43AM

An impassioned Sen. Barbara Mikulski got testy with fellow Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Wednesday morning when the Maryland Democrat felt she was being ignored while pleading on the Senate floor to head off a government shutdown.

As is usual for the Senate, the chamber was empty except for staffers, a couple of other senators waiting to speak, and Mrs. Gillibrand, who was presiding over the session. Mrs. Gillibrand had a stack of papers in front of her, and was also working on her Blackberry, which is also common — if frowned upon — for senators given the tedious duty of presiding.

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But Ms. Mikulski felt she was not being given due attention as she spoke on the consequences of a government shutdown. Mid-speech, Ms. Mikulski stopped and called Ms. Gillibrand out.

“Madam president, I — Hello? — Madam president?” Ms. Mikulski demanded. “Maybe, I don’t know if my speech is not that attention-getting, but could I have your attention?”

After a few moments’ pause, Mrs. Gillibrand calmly replied that Ms. Mikulski had used up her allotted floor speaking time.

“Well, then my time is up, but — look, maybe the Senate’s not paying attention, but the American people are paying attention,” Ms. Mikulski shot back, before wrapping up her speech and leaving the floor.