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Posted at 11:59 PM ET, 03/22/2012

Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell explain Senate dysfunction

Former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole at Wednesday's Bipartisan Policy Center tribute. (BPC, and Greg Gibson Photography)

Having Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell headline a night celebrating bipartisan compromise is like. . .oh, Tupac and Biggie releasing a duet.

And yet the two Senate leaders both showed up at Wednesday’s Bipartisan Policy Center salute to explain that we’re supposed to have all the feuding and drama.

The Senate, McConnell told the crowd, is like a big crazy family of class president-types with big egos and sharp elbows.

“It might look like dysfunction from the outside, but it’s our dysfunction,” he said. “And somehow, by some mystery of design and human nature, it not only works — but it’s the glory of the republic. And none of us would change a thing about it.”

Huh. But Reid agreed. Don’t blame him and McConnell, he said: “It’s because of the Founding Fathers. That’s the way they set up this country.” And don’t worry about the sniping. “The glass is really half full, it’s not half empty. We’re going to work our way through all of these issues.”

Reid said he and McConnell have a “very warm personal relationship.” His GOP counterpart responded, “Harry and I actually get along very well.”

Harry Reid at the Mellon Auditorium on Wednesday. (BPC, and Greg Gibson Photography)
The BPC was founded by former Senate leaders to advise those still in office. To mark its fifth anniversary, the center saluted a “century of service” from two former majority leaders: Howard Baker, 86, and Bob Dole, 88. The audience at the Mellon Auditorium included every former living Senate majority and minority leader (except George Mitchell, who was off on another Northern Ireland project.)

The two honorees, both with health issues and unable to walk without assistance, sat in armchairs as colleagues praised their legacy. Joe Biden told Baker, “I’ve never known anyone who possessed more wisdom or integrity than you,” and called Dole the master of the “honorable compromise.”

There were variations of these sentiments — Baker’s courage during Watergate and the Panama Canal vote, Dole’s wit and love for disabled vets — for two hours from T om Daschle, Trent Lott, Bill Frist and many others. The program ended with short films about each honoree and briefs remarks from both that boiled down to “play well with others.”

“Howard and I come from the school where we believe that some of the tough issues can be resolved if you can find people that you can trust — on both sides of the aisle,” said Dole. “That is the bottom line.”

By  |  11:59 PM ET, 03/22/2012

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