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New Senators May Make House Calls

Blunt, Others With History Might Become Liaisons

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Sen.-elect Roy Blunt is one of several incoming Senators with deep House ties.

Republicans have high hopes that the party’s incoming crop of freshman Senators, who carry years of experience in the House, may help the party build stronger ties between the chambers.

The Senate Republican Conference for the 112th Congress will include several new Senators with rich experience in the House, including Sen.-elect Roy Blunt, who served as Republican Whip in the House in several Congresses.

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said he hopes to use the new immigrants from the House to strengthen cross-Dome relations.

“One good thing is we have a group of real leaders that has come from the House now to the Senate, and that helps the Senators better understand the workings of the House — and frankly, they’re better able to take back to their former House colleagues what’s going on here and understand it better,” the Arizona Republican said. “Roy is, of course, one of those people.” 

Blunt is one of six House Republicans elected to the Senate in last month’s elections, and he enjoys close relationships in his caucus as well as with Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). 

Blunt said he has not been approached to take on any kind of formal liaison role, but the Missouri Republican acknowledged that there is room to improve communication between the chambers next year, when Republicans will control the House and can drive priorities that would have no chance in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I think there is a lot of potential for both bodies, the House and Senate, to work better together,” Blunt told Roll Call. “I think continuing to find Members of the House eager to work on an issue and try to work with them to introduce legislation that is as similar as it can ... is really important and needs to be pursued. And wherever possible it needs to be bipartisan.”

Former Sen. Trent Lott said he was dedicated to maintaining strong relations with the House when he served as Senate Majority Leader. The Mississippi Republican had served in leadership in the House, and as a Senator he shuttled back to the House on a regular basis for informal lunches and regular meetings. The constant conversation helped shape policy and prevent intraparty bickering between the two chambers, said Republican aides who served at the time. 

When Lott stepped down from the Majority Leader post, his successor, Bill Frist (Tenn.), designated Lott as the go-between with the House. No Member in either party has filled that role since Lott’s departure, several sources said, and Lott said Senators often seem to forget their roots in the House once they arrive in the Senate. 

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