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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, greeting lawmakers in the first Senate session since the tragic shootings in Tucson, urged his colleagues Tuesday to be "more civil" to each other and "reintroduce truth" to legislative debates.
Since the "numbing tragedy" that killed six and severely wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords on Jan. 8, Reid said the nation resumed a debate over the "words, tone and metaphors" used in Congress and on the campaign trail. "There is no evidence that partisan politics played any role in this monstrous attack," he said. "Even so, we should be more civil anyway. Being more mindful of the weight of our words always helps. We have much more to gain than to lose from civility and discretion."
Speaking slowly and deliberately on the Senate floor, Reid said the issue of civility "goes beyond inflammatory rhetoric or hate speech. It also means not questioning each other's motives, or calling into question the patriotism of a colleague."
Words matter, he said. It is not enough, Reid asserted, to rephrase an attack line like "job killing" to "job destroying," as House Republicans have done when referring to the new health care law. There is no evidence the law would take away jobs, he maintained. "Changing our rhetoric requires us to debate the facts, not invent them."
Reid (D-Nev.) is no stranger to strong rhetoric. He ruffled feathers in Washington last week when -- in the midst of a state visit -- he denounced China President Hu Jintao as a "dictator."
On Tuesday, Reid said "some may be motivated by the conversation that started after Arizona, and many will seek more civility simply because it's the right thing to do . . . I intend to do my part."
Watch part of the majority leader's floor speech, courtesy YouTube.
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