Senate Welcomes Karzai on Floor With a Standing Ovation

Posted May 13, 2010 at 12:53pm

The Senate unanimously agreed to give Afghan President Hamid Karzai floor privileges on Thursday, allowing the unpredictable leader and his entourage to mingle with Senators during a vote on an amendment to the financial reform bill.

Shortly after 1 p.m., Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) asked for unanimous consent to allow Karzai to come to the floor. Karzai is in Washington for meetings with President Barack Obama and key Members of Congress.

“As my colleagues know, we are currently being visited in Washington by the president of Afghanistan. … I would like to ask unanimous consent that the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, be permitted the privileges of coming to the floor to be greeted by the Members of the United States Senate together with his ministers,” said Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

After unanimous consent was given, Karzai came on to the Senate floor to a standing ovation from the chamber; the Afghan president slowly worked his way around the outside of the chamber greeting Republicans and Democrats alike, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

As Karzai exchanged pleasantries with Members, lawmakers continued to debate amendments.

It is not uncommon for members of parliament from other countries to be granted floor privileges in the Senate, and in the House, heads of state often are allowed to address joint sessions of Congress.

But heads of state rarely visit the floor of the Senate. According to Associate Senate Historian Betty Koed, the only similar occurrence was Aug. 16, 1967, when German Chancellor Kurt Kiesinger addressed the Senate.