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Wednesday, January 03, 2007
White House flies top Senate Dems to Ford funeral
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Democratic leaders Harry Reid of Nevada and Dick Durbin of Illinois, along with incoming Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin of Michigan, flew to former President Gerald Ford's funeral in Grand Rapids, Michigan Wednesday on a White House-provided military plane, two Senate aides told CNN.

The plane was offered by the White House to ensure the Democrats could attend the funeral but still make it back for an important reception at the White House Wednesday evening hosted by President Bush to welcome the new bipartisan leadership of the House and Senate.

The senators would have otherwise missed the reception -- at which the direction of the Iraq war is expected to be discussed -- because commercial carriers could not accommodate the narrow window between the 2 p.m. ET funeral service and the 530 p.m. ET event at the White House.

The Senate aides, who asked not to be identified, said the leaders were happy to get the offer from the White House and viewed it as a gesture of good will at a time congressional Democrats and the Republican White House are trying to work together.

-- CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett

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