Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delivered a striking mea culpa on the Senate floor Friday as he opened the chamber, saying he and his colleagues have simply gotten too personal and nasty in their floor debates.
A day earlier Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, had scolded Mr. Reid for attacking Sen. Ted Cruz, another Texas Republican, by name as they debated the government shutdown. Mr. Cornyn read directly from the Senate Rules that prohibit members from impugning each other’s motives or conduct.
Mr. Reid on Friday said it was a lesson all senators, including himself, should learn.
“I’ll work harder and I hope my senators will work to their best to maintain these habits of civility and decorum,” he said.
The Nevada Democrat said the chamber has “lost the aura” of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the long-time lawmaker from West Virginia who was seen as a keeper of the chamber’s traditions.
On Thursday, Mr. Reid had accused Mr. Cruz — who wasn’t on the floor — of having usurped the rest of the GOP leadership, including House Speaker John A. Boehner.
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“He is following Senator Cruz ‘s idea specifically. Senator Cruz is now joint Speaker. He lectures the House on occasion, as he does people over here,” Mr. Reid said. He also called the GOP moves he said Mr. Cruz was spearheading “crazy.”
Senate debate rules prohibit senators from talking directly to each other or referring to each other by name, instead directing that they refer to colleagues as “the junior senator from Texas” in Mr. Cruz’s case. All remarks are also supposed to be addressed to the presiding officer, rather than directly at each other.
“These rules are a little unusual but they’ve been in place here a couple centuries,” Mr. Reid said Friday, adding that with the rules, “Senators are more likely to debate ideas than talk about personalities.”