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Senate Invites British Invasion

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

“Have you switched sides?” Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada asked Pat Roberts on the Senate floor Tuesday night.  

“I don’t know what the other side is going to offer,” the Kansas Republican replied. “I’m keeping my options open.”  

“Cheerio,” both men said jokingly to each other as they parted ways, with Roberts sporting a conspicuous Union Jack tie. The flashy accessory drew comments from colleagues all day long, but in fact, Roberts had not swapped his Senate pin for a seat in the House of Lords. Instead, he was paying tribute to his friend, the late Eric Forth  a Conservative parliamentarian, who was described by The Guardian as a devout "Thatcherite," with a "penchant for clashing ties and waistcoats"  dressed for a meeting with fellow senators and members of Parliament.  

“I thought it was a nice gesture, and most of them knew [Forth],” Roberts said. “So it started off things right.”  

The last time the biennial exchange group met was in 2013, when the British hosted. And Roberts recalled another time, years ago, on a West Virginia mountaintop led by the late Democratic senator, Robert C. Byrd.  

The British-American Parliamentary Group was formed during the World War II to build relations between the two legislative bodies, historically discussing issues like defense, security, economics and energy.  

Tuesday’s Senate delegation was led by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and included Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., John Boozman, R-Ark., and Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt.  

The four attendees of the Conservative Party were: The Rt. Hon. Chris Grayling, MP; The Rt. Hon. the Lord Howard of Lympne, CH QC; Jack Lopresti, MP, and Craig Tracey, MP. They were joined by four members of the Labour Party: The Rt. Hon. John Spellar, MP; The Lord Davies of Stamford; Seema Malhotra, MP, and Kevan Jones, MP.  

Tuesday's group didn't stray too far from precedent, discussing economic matters like the Eurozone and economic recovery, diplomatic relations between the two nations, security issues dealing with ISIS and countries like Iran, China and Russia, and, of course, politics.  

According to Roberts, the British delegation was “very interested in our election process and who we wanted for president.” But the senatorial delegation stopped short of an endorsement.  

“We said we didn’t know at this point,” Roberts recalled.  

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the most previous time the U.S.-British delegation met as well as who attended this year's meeting.  

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