Hillary Clinton’s fellow Senate Democrats embraced her on Tuesday with a pair of standing ovations, tears and cheers as she returned to the U.S. Capitol from her historic yet unsuccessful presidential bid.
"We’re happy to have her back," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters as he emerged with Clinton from a closed-door meeting with Democratic colleagues.
Clinton used the meeting and comments afterward to call for a united party to back Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, who defeated her in the race for their party’s presidential nomination.
"We’re going to work very hard to elect Senator Obama," said Clinton, who came up short in her effort to become the first woman U.S. president.
Clinton urged backers to shift their support in the November election to Obama, not Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has sought to woo them.
"If you care about the issues I care about … you really have to stay with us in the Democratic Party and vote for Senator Obama," she said.
The Democratic senator from New York brushed off questions about the possibility of being Obama’s vice presidential running mate.
"I’m not seeking any other position," Clinton told reporters. "This is totally Senator Obama’s decision."
Clinton, who conceded defeat and endorsed Obama on June 7, will campaign with him for the first time on Friday in Unity, New Hampshire, where each received 107 votes in the first-in-the-nation presidential primary in January.
"This is going to be a symbolic event that I hope will rally the Democratic Party behind our nominee," Clinton said.
Asked what’s next for her, Clinton said, "My role is to be the very best senator I can be."
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democrats’ failed 2004 presidential nominee, said Clinton must shift gears.
"The hardest thing to do is to sort of adjust your pace from speaking to the nation and sometimes even to the world about what you want to get done, and then to come back and settle into the pace of the Senate," Kerry told reporters.
Clinton was introduced at the Democratic luncheon by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, who was quoted by a colleague as saying Clinton "is revved up, riled up and raring to go."
"When Senator Clinton walked into the room, of course, everyone stood and cheered," Reid said. "There was a tear or two and lot of high fives."
Clinton also received an ovation after brief remarks.
"She said she was more committed than ever to working for the American people," said Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska.