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The Character of the Senate

Location: Washington, DC

THE CHARACTER OF THE SENATE -- (Senate - September 13, 2006)

Mr. KERRY. Madam President, an awful lot has been written and enough has been said about the comments made yesterday by House majority leader JOHN BOEHNER. I am not interested in asking Mr. Boehner for a clarification or retraction or even an apology. His statement was very clear and I believe equally despicable. And his words are, frankly, beyond redemption. They are, however, sadly, what we have seen much too much of in politics today in our country.

So this is an opportunity today for the Senate to be the Senate. We talk here about ``my friend from across the aisle.'' We talk about the traditions of the Senate. We talk about civility. But in the last years, a lot of us have seen things happen here that never would have happened in the Senate of 15 or 20 years ago.

We have come a long way since the days when Bob Dole and George Mitchell refused to campaign against each other. I have seen colleagues say in the cloakroom that they thought it was wrong to see the courage of their friend, Max Cleland, attacked, but on the floor of the Senate there is silence.

I know there are good people here who still long for civility. I have heard it. I heard the junior Senator from Oregon say, just this summer: My soul cries out for something more dignified. My friend from Arizona, just this spring, said: The self-expression sometimes overwhelms our civility.

Well, this is one of those times. But I think it is more than that. I think it is an opportunity, in keeping with these pleas for civility, for some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle to actually come to the floor and not just talk about civility but express the truth, to come here and condemn Mr. Boehner's remarks in no uncertain terms if they disagree with them. I think that is the real test of the kind of place we have become and the kind of politics we are willing to tolerate. It is a test of the character of the Senate. And I think every American would benefit from hearing where Republicans stand on Mr. Boehner's words expressed yesterday.

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