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Different Meeting Styles Provide Similar Results

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Tennessee Sens. Lamar Alexander (left)and Bob Corker hold weekly coffee meetings together with constituents.

Three other states Tennessee, Montana and Wyoming   hold their Senate constituent coffees jointly, but these pairings are far more likely to agree with each other.

For Tennessee, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker hold Tennessee Tuesdays.

Visitors get to see the two Senators and members of their staffs, who attend every Senate coffee to answer topic-specific questions from the constituents.

I couldnt begin to do it by myself, Alexander said, noting that his and Corkers staffs bring issue-based expertise to the weekly coffees and calling them interchangeable. 

We want to make sure they see our staffs, he said.

Corker agreed. We love starting the day with Lamar and his staff, welcoming Tennesseans to Washington ... [and] making sure they connect with folks on our staff if they have a particular issue they want to discuss, he said in an email.

Alexander also said the men use the time to express their gratitude to the visiting constituents. 

Were really fortunate to be here, he said. It gives us a chance to say thank you.

Unlike other joint constituent coffees, the Montana delegations weekly coffee is completely unstructured. Visitors fill out a name tag, grab a cup of coffee and a doughnut, and walk around a room full of Montanans who all seem to know each other. 

The only thing that distinguishes Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester and their staffs are the blue name-tag pins they wear.

Baucus said this is indicative of the nature of Montana in general, calling the state one big, small town. 

Were one big family, he said. You know somebody, or you know somebodys aunt and uncle.

He explained that the atmosphere remains unpolitical, even when talking business. Theres never a hint of partisanship, he said, adding that a lot can get accomplished at the coffees. 

You pick up a lot here, talking to people, he said. He and his staff will often discuss any issues brought to their attention by their visitors, he said.

Tester, who referred to the coffees as one of the highlights of my week, agreed. 

Sometimes its business, sometimes its pleasure, he said. Sometimes its more fruitful than having a formal meeting.

Tester said he thinks the constituents benefit from seeing both Senators at once. 

Were both Montanans, he said.

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