The House of Representatives yesterday paid an unprecendented honor to a member of what Rep. Bill Frenzel (R-Minn.), who received a similar ovation when he returned to the Senate last week for the first time after learning he had inoperable cancer.
Humphrey, who appeared stronger than he had last week, dug himself out from under an avalanche of praise from House members in a packed chamber to give a rousing lecture on Democracy and to top every other speaker's jokes with Jack Benny timing.
Then, as if to show he is still the Democrats' Happy Warrior, he raced back to the Senate to blast Arthur F. Burns, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, for attacking President Carter's economic policies. Burn's "analysis of what ails our economy is seriously defective," and his conclusions for cure are "misleading and wrong," said Humphrey.
Carter is only inheriting the problems of the past, said Humphrey - "During Dr. Burns' tenure, our inflation problem did not get better. On the contrary, it has become much worse," he said.
The House has never before, in the memory of veteran observers, interrupted its business to honor a sitting member of the Senate.
After a two-minute standing ovation. Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) started things off by calling Humphrey "the most genuine liberal this country has ever produced."
Others continued he is the "little man's greatest friend," a spokesman for the poor, old, blacks, sicks, laborers, farmers. He is even loved by the Republicans, said Frenzel. Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) said Humphrey had a special talent for providing "comfort for the afflicted - and occasionally, affliction for the comfortable."
Morris K. Udall (D-Ariz.), a fellow sojourner on the presidential campaign trail, joked about Humphrey's ebullience: "Hubert's got more solutions than there are problems."
Udall took a jab at President Carter, as he mentioned last year's presidential race when Carter ridiculed Humphrey as too old. "The man who won had not such magnanimous things to say" about Humphrey, said Udall. But it was Humphrey's style not to be bitter, he continued instead, he has become the "manager for the President" on the Hill, said Udall. "He kills his enemies with love."
Humphrey responded to the many cracks about his long-windedness: the only reason he never ran for the House was because they had a "two or five-minute" speaking rule Humphrey spoke for 21 minutes.
The House insisted that Humphrey deliver his remarks from the speaker's podium, not from the speaker's podium, not from the well where ordinary debate is conducted. Humphrey beamed, "I'm standing where the President gives his State of the Union address." He paused for just the right effect. "My goodness!" he said to applause and laughter.
Humphrey, the old teacher, held everyone - members, staff and aides who crowded onto the floor, visitors in the galleries, even the press - as he said. "We are all children of one God. We live on a very small planet.
"We have been selected for an unusual and a special purpose. I believe that purpose is to try to demonstrate that the power of understanding and reason and love can prevail."