Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid returned to work full-time on Monday, just one week after undergoing surgery to repair the bones around his right eye that were shattered in an exercising accident on New Year’s Day.
“I’m feeling fine,” he told reporters as he entered the Capitol. “I’m battered and bruised but okay.”
“It’s really good to be back,” Reid said a bit later when beginning his first speech on the Senate floor since Dec. 16. Wearing a large bandage over his eye, a large patch of deep purple bruises under his jaw was starkly visible.
The 75-year old Nevadan thanked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his support while he was out.
“Sen. McConnell and his lovely wife, Elaine, have been really good to Landra and I over the years and we appreciate his words of support,” Reid said. “I want to express my appreciation to my colleagues who have been so kind and thoughtful during my recovery time.”
Reid then picked up where he left off, blasting Republicans for putting a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline on the floor as their first order of business in the new Congress. He also railed against them for adding immigration related policy riders to a must-pass funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security.
“We should pass a homeland security bill with no strings attached,” he said firmly.
While Reid was recovering, Assistant Democratic Leader Dick Durbin of Illinois filled in Reid, taking over his daily rounds of political sparring and posturing with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Although at one point Durbin broke with the partisan norm and actually complemented McConnell’s handling of the debate over the Keystone pipeline bill.
Durbin spoke on the floor after Reid, saying his return is a “great moment” for Senate Democrats.
In a sign of how long Reid has been out, both McConnell and Durbin initially, out of habit, referred to him as “majority leader,” a title he officially lost just a few days after his accident.
While Reid was away from his office, his staff was eager to point out that he was still running the show, fully involved in decision making as the head of the Democratic caucus, and anxious to get back to work. Hours after his surgery last Monday, his spokesman said in a press release that Reid would “recuperate from his residence this week and continue to monitor the Senate floor closely through meetings and phone calls with his fellow senators, the White House and staff.”
In fact, reporters from The New York Times were welcomed into his downtown Washington condominium to see it firsthand. The paper reported that Reid “emphasized that he was physically and mentally sharp.”
The first order of business for Reid will be to fend off a GOP-backed funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security that he and other Democrats oppose. It faces a critical vote on Tuesday that will have ramifications for both political parties and the smooth functioning of the important department.
Reid will also convene the Democrat caucus policy lunch – a regular gathering in the Capitol where senators huddle to agree on political messaging and strategize about how to deal with various legislative matters. Chaired by Reid, those weekly sessions were not held in his absence.