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Posted at 11:03 AM ET, 05/10/2012

Sen. Harry Reid: Richard Lugar ‘drummed out by tea party zealots'

The Senate’s top Democrat paid tribute to long-time Republican Sen. Richard G. Lugar (Indiana) on the Senate floor Thursday, offering the kind words in the midst of a blast at the tea party right that ousted the six-term senator in a primary Tuesday.

In his first public comments since Lugar’s loss, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nevada) said Lugar was “has always been willing to extend a hand to colleagues across the aisle.”

“His first priority has always been getting things done for the American people, whether that means keeping the world safe from nuclear war or looking out for Hoosiers back home,” Reid said.

Lugar was defeated by Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock, who argued that the longtime senator had proven too willing to compromise with Democrats.

Democrats now see opportunity to make the red state competitive, as their party’s candidate, Rep. Joe Donnelly (D), argues Mourdock’s election would only contribute to Washington’s painful gridlock. Concluding his tribute to Lugar, Reid--eager to maintain his majority in November--pressed that message

“Throughout the history of this country, even in the most trying times, that’s times of great social and political unrest, our elected representatives have worked together despite their differece to do what’s right for all Americans,” he said. “So I worry when I see dedicated patriot like Sen. Lugar drummed out by tea party zealots for being too willing to cooperate. But that’s what happened on Tuesday.”

Reid was followed on the floor by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who opened with kind words for his longtime colleague--but quickly shifted to blame lack of action in the Senate on a Democratic majority only interested in show votes to help President Obama.

“I certainly share my friend the Majority Leader’s views about Sen. Lugar’s record,” McConnell said. “But he has eight more months to be among us and to serve this country--and the appropriate time to celebrate his outstanding career would be when it comes to an end here in the Senate.”

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By  |  11:03 AM ET, 05/10/2012

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