WASHINGTON — In unusually harsh personal criticism on the Senate floor, Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., on Wednesday accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of being “rude,” “dictatorial” and “ineffective.”
The outburst by Specter came after the Senate’s rare all night-session and emotional vote on an amendment calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Reid interrupted Specter after he said it was a “ridiculous waste of time” to keep the Senate in session all night Tuesday to debate the amendment, which Specter opposed.
“I would bet, with all due respect to my friend, the senior senator from Pennsylvania, that the people of Pennsylvania want a change of course in an intractable war that we find ourselves in in Iraq,” Reid said.
As Specter tried to respond, Reid called for a vote on an education bill and left the chamber.
Specter waited in the Senate for half an hour until the next break in the action, then spoke again in sharp criticism.
“When the majority leader cut me off, and then made reference to what the people of Pennsylvania want … I at least ought to have an opportunity to reply because I think I know more about Pennsylvania than Senator Reid does,” Specter said.
To be interrupted like that, Specter said, was “rude, to say the minimum.”
“And if the United States Senate doesn’t run on comity, on courtesy, on basic decency, the United States Senate cannot run at all,” Specter said.
Specter said former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., told him that Reid did the same thing to him a couple of days ago.
“Senator Lott said the majority leader wanted to publicly apologize. Senator Lott said, ‘Not necessary.’ Public apologies don’t mean much.”
Specter said Reid approached him after the interruption and said he would make sure Specter would be recognized to speak first after the vote on the education bill.
“I said, ‘No thanks, I can get myself recognized,’ ” Specter said. “Those practices (by Reid), I think, are not only rude, but dictatorial.”
Specter then turned to the overnight session.
“We had a meaningless, insulting all-night session for absolutely no purpose. It was an indignity to the senators who were kept here all night to vote,” Specter said.
That made the Senate “the laughing stock of the world.”
“The majority leader said the purpose was to show the American people that he would not back down. Well, I think he showed the American people how ineffective he is,” Specter said.
Responding to Specter’s comments, Reid spokesman Jon Summers said tensions are high because of the debate on the Iraq war.
“Everyone is frustrated with the situation, particularly Senator Reid, who is frustrated with Republicans who continue to block votes on changing course in Iraq and bringing a responsible end to the war,” Summers said.