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Mitch McConnell On The Senate: 'What Have We Become?'

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"I'm absolutely certain of one thing: the Senate can be better than it is," he said.

"We've gotten too comfortable with doing everything we do here through the prism of the next election, instead of the prism of duty. And everyone suffers as a result," the Republican leader said.

McConnell blamed Democrats for the rancorous partisanship that has damaged the chamber in recent years, mourning the days when it functioned in a bipartisan manner, unlike "the hollow shell of a Senate we have today."

Democrats viewed the speech as a breathtaking act of hypocrisy, pointing out that McConnell has publicly admitted to working to deny Democrats bipartisan votes on issues like health care. Then there are his remarks after the 2010 elections that the "single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), fumed on Twitter:

And:

McConnell said neither party was blameless but he accused Reid of repeatedly denying Republicans opportunities for amendments and input in the legislative process. He also attacked Reid for weakening the minority's filibuster power with a bare majority.

McConnell made a promise with an eye to the 2014 congressional elections, during which he's defending his own seat.

"If Republicans are fortunate enough to be in the majority next year,
amendments will be allowed," he said. "Senators will be respected."

Reid hit the floor to respond to McConnell's remarks shortly after, accusing him of "looking for a distraction -- a diversion, a phony process meant to steal attention away from their unconscionable stand on the issues that matter most to the middle class."

"It's interesting. During the Republican leader's remarks there wasn't a word about jobs, about unemployment compensation or the economy. Not a word," the Democratic leader said, charging the GOP with demonstrating a "callous opposition to the plight of 1.3 million Americans."

This article has been updated.