By Patrick OConnor - 12/20/05 12:00 AM EST
In an emotional address on the House floor yesterday, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) thanked his colleagues on both sides of the aisle for reaching out to him after he suffered a heart attack last week.
The Energy and Commerce chairman said he first asked, "Why me, Lord?" after being hospitalized. Barton then added that he was overcome by the well wishes of "literally thousands of people," including many legislators.
"I learned how great this institution and country is," Barton said.
"I'm not going to embarrass anyone on the floor," Barton said, "but some of the meanest, toughest reputations on both sides of the aisle showed themselves to be the biggest softies I've ever known."
"I want to say from the very, very bottom of my very, very sore heart, God bless this institution," he added.
After Barton ended his address with a call to "work together next year," members gave the 56-year old lawmaker a standing ovation.
After suffering the heart attack on Thursday, Barton was released from George Washington University Hospital on Sunday and attended the House session that night, staying until business wrapped up around 7 a.m. yesterday morning.
"He's in good spirits," Barton spokeswoman Karen Modlin said. "It was really important to him to come back and vote."
Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.), who recently engaged in a public dispute with Barton over an auto-repair disclosure bill, was supposed to meet with the Barton to discuss the issue on Friday but was forced to postpone meeting until next month.
Westmoreland wishes Barton a speedy recovery and signed a get-well card for the Texas lawmaker.
"While we disagree with the right to repair legislation, we fully support the right to repair his heart," Westmoreland spokesman Brian Robinson said.