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Lawmakers celebrate Mandela's life on birthday

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Photo -   Well-wishers carry a large banner of Nelson Mandela as they march up and down outside the gates of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa Thursday, July 18, 2013. South Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday on Thursday, a milestone capped by news that the former president's health was improving after fears that he was close to death during ongoing hospital treatment. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Well-wishers carry a large banner of Nelson Mandela as they march up and down outside the gates of the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where former South African President Nelson Mandela is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa Thursday, July 18, 2013. South Africa celebrated Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday on Thursday, a milestone capped by news that the former president's health was improving after fears that he was close to death during ongoing hospital treatment. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Members of Congress are celebrating the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela on the anti-apartheid leader's 95th birthday.

Republican and Democratic leaders joined in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, representatives of the Free South Africa Movement and other guests. Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since early June.

Republican Speaker John Boehner calls Mandela a "remarkable statesman." Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid describes him as the George Washington of South Africa.

Lawmakers took turns reading excerpts of Mandela's writings at moments in his life — as prisoner, freedom fighter, Nobel Peace prize winner and South Africa president.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi recalls the emotions when Mandela addressed Congress, once in 1990 and four years later.

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