WASHINGTON — Sen. Ben Nelson’s helmet-like head of hair is the envy of his Capitol Hill colleagues, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.
On the Senate floor Monday, Reid launched into a speech paying tribute to the retiring Nebraska Democrat, bidding him a fond farewell and praising his years in public service.
But Reid abruptly digressed from his prepared remarks. The presiding officer at the time was Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., whose bald head is about as far from Nelson’s as one could imagine.
"I think if the truth were known, many, many senators would be very envious ... about that hair of Ben Nelson’s," Reid said. "I mean that is a mop of real hair. It’s often that people call his office, email the office. They believe he has a toupee.
"It’s his hair. He’ll pull it for you anytime just to show you that it’s real."
Indeed, Nelson’s ‘do has been the subject of much joking over the years, earning him the nickname "Hair Force One."
"I mean, he has hair like a 15-year-old ... ," Reid said.
He went on to talk about Nelson’s love of hunting, including a pheasant-hunting session with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
"Ben Nelson still boasts about that — that he was able to bring Schumer back all in one piece, but, more important than that, the people who went hunting with him came back in one piece," Reid said.
Nelson has claimed that Schumer actually bagged a couple birds, Reid said.
"A lot of us have some trouble accepting that, but ... I’ll take him at his word," Reid said.
He also praised Nelson as a practical joker and singer.
Nelson recorded his rendition of the song "Western Town," which Reid quoted: "I’m from a western town in Nebraska. Don’t know why I left so long ago. All I know is this western town in Nebraska lives in my heart and in my soul."
Reid alluded to the difficult spots Nelson often found himself in as one of the most conservative Senate Democrats, including the decisive vote for the president’s health care law. The majority leader said he gave Nelson a big hug at a recent retirement party.
"I really care a great deal about him," Reid said. "He’s made some extremely difficult votes, but he did it because it was the right thing to do. His duty is to country and his conscience."