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Nebraska's Senators ... Pals at Last?

The recent behavior of Nebraska's two senators -- Chuck Hagel, a Republican who is flirting with a White House bid, and Ben Nelson, a moderate Democrat -- is downright shocking. The notorious foes are actually ... being nice to each other.

Senators Ben Nelson and Chuck Hagel
Nebraska's senators -- Ben Nelson, left, and Chuck Hagel -- appear to be getting along just fine these days. (Photos by AP and AFP/Getty)

To say that Hagel and Nelson have feuded during their six years of service together in the Senate would be an understatement. They've been known to assiduously avoid each other on the floor and in the hallways, even while taking pot shots at each other in the press.

Hagel has derided Nelson's legislative efforts on various fronts as "laughable" and "outrageous," and the Republican worked hard to help his party try to oust the Democrat in the 2006 election. The two have had a contentious relationship ever since 1996, when they ran against each other and Hagel won. (Nelson was quoted in Nebraska newspapers saying, "I got over losing. He never got over winning.")

Fast forward to today, with the country weary from the Iraq War and Hagel being hailed as a prophet for his warnings about the pitfalls in Iraq. The two lawmakers, while not quite parked on lovers lane, are now working together.

Nelson actually said recently that "Nebraskans can be proud" that Hagel might run for president and said he'd like to "wish the Hagels well in their deliberations." Hagel and Nelson endorsed the same Iraq war resolution (whether it will ever see the light of day in the gridlocked Senate is another story), and Hagel commended Nelson for his hard work.

Some congressional staffers can hardly believe the change. One senior Senate aide familiar with the frosty (but thawing?) dynamic between Hagel and Nelson quipped, "What's next, Sunnis and Shiites breaking bread? Dogs and cats living together?"

Everybody knows it's not an uncommon phenomenon for senators from the same state, even if they are from the same party, to wind up acting like adversaries as they compete for the media spotlight in Washington and accolades back home.

Hagel's spokesman, Mike Buttry, downplayed the seriousness of the senators' well-known rivalry, saying, "They've worked together for six years. They're just doing their job."

But asked whether the two senators are "friends now," Buttry paused and said, "I'll let you grab Hagel and ask him that one."

Nelson spokesman David DiMartino had this to say:

"I know The Sleuth probably prefers a good food fight, but Senator Nelson has a good working relationship with his colleague and they have done a lot working together for Nebraska. Some may see them as the 'Odd Couple' and only take notice when there is a conflict, like when Felix has to pick up Oscar's socks. It's just not the case."

DiMartino quickly added, "Now don't ask me to identify which is Felix and which is Oscar."

By Mary Ann Akers  |  February 6, 2007; 6:35 PM ET
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Well well, aren't these two 2 corrupt peas in a pod. Eventually they would have to find something in common.
But the real test of true friendhip is between Hagel and Tom Osborne whom Hagel worked behind the scenes to defeat in the Big Red Govenor Championship (2006) Osborne played a good game, but simply couldn't compete against an opponent who used to own the private vote counting company that counted Osborne's votes!
According to Election Systems & Software (former AIS w/Hagel as CEO) Osborne didn't even carry Adams County where they named their slice of the Interstate after their most beloved citizen! The Husker state is still struggling with 1+1.

Posted by: Susan swanson | February 8, 2007 6:33 AM | Report abuse

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