The Washington Times - March 13, 2012, 06:26PM

A few years ago he might have been booed out of the chamber, but the U.S. Senate on Tuesday gave temporary floor privileges to the speaker of France’s Senate, allowing him a chance to observe the action — or lack thereof.

Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, escorted Jean-Pierre Bel around the chamber as senators were wrapping up the day’s business on a transportation bill. Mr. Bel, accompanied by a translator, was warmly greeted by Democratic leaders Harry Reid, Charles E. Schumer and Richard J. Durbin, though some other senators seemed to find other activities that demanded their time.


Mr. Bel is the first member of the Socialist Party to become speaker of France’s upper chamber, after the Socialists and Greens won a majority last year.

During the Iraq war, members of the U.S. House who were upset at the country’s reluctance to aid U.S. efforts officially renamed the cafeteria’s French fries as “freedom fries.”

The move was mocked by some House members who pointed to the portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette that hangs in a place of honor on the wall of the chamber, in recognition of the French nobleman who aided the colonies rebellion against Britain, and who later was the first foreigner to address a joint meeting of Congress.