Back home they were often superstars, governors, or state attorneys general, but here in Washington they are now just freshman senators — a lesson Sen. Richard Blumenthal learned on Monday when he got dressed down by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for being late to preside over the day’s session.
The duty of presiding over the Senate is usually shared by junior senators from the majority party, and it’s boring work, often involving hours of sitting on the dais staring out at the empty chamber — but the one requirement is that they’re there on time, freeing up more senior colleagues to do the behind-the-scenes negotiations and deal-making that make the Senate operate.
On Monday, Mr. Reid found himself the only lawmaker in the chamber at 2 p.m., when the Senate was to convene. That meant Mr. Reid had to take the chair himself, leading the Pledge of Allegiance and then waiting for someone less senior to come and spell him.
He even had to pull double-duty, making a procedural motion in his capacity as a senator before approving it in his capacity as presiding officer.
Five minutes after the session opened, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, the chamber’s newest Democrat from Connecticut, arrived and took the chair — drawing a rebuke from Mr. Reid, who as he turned the chair over to Mr. Blumenthal made it clear how things work in the Senate.
“You can’t do this,” Mr. Reid said in a stern whisper, audible to spectators in the public galleries above the chamber floor. “I need you here.”
Mr. Reid then went to his leader’s desk, gave brief comments and stalked out of the chamber.
Mr. Blumenthal’s office didn’t immediately respond to a question about the senator’s delay.