Reid offers Bunning an olive branch

More than a few heads turned on the Senate floor Tuesday when Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) used the occasion of Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden’s perfect game on Sunday to sing the praises of an unlikely colleague, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.).

Reid spoke for five minutes about the Hall-of-Famer’s perfect game in 1964, using words like “stupendous,” “unbelievable” and “truly amazing.”

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The oratory love-fest was a sharp turnaround from comments Reid made less than three months ago, when he slammed Bunning for holding up an emergency unemployment benefits package in the Senate.

At the time, Reid said Bunning and the GOP had gone “too far” and accused the Kentucky lawmaker of hypocrisy, saying the senator was “out there lecturing the country on pay-go, something he didn’t vote for.”

Bunning, along with most GOP senators, opposed a pay-as-you-go budgetary bill backed by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

But all that appeared to be behind Reid on Tuesday, as he held Bunning up as a paragon of athletic achievement and an example of how diverse and accomplished the Senate is. He even acknowledged the past tensions, albeit gently, when he said that “Sometimes in this body ... our political passions get in the way of our personal relationships and the respect we show for one another ... None of us is perfect.”

Bunning’s office declined to comment on the kindness, but the compliment likely came as a pleasant surprise to the GOP senator, who isn’t exactly buddy-buddy with his own party’s leader, fellow Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, either.

Not everyone was bowled over by Reid’s magnanimous gesture. As one Democratic Senate staffer observed, “It’s easy to be nice to the guy who’s retiring.” Bunning announced in July of last year that he will retire at the end of his term.

Maybe so, but it’s still nice.