Two senators on Friday sent a letter to the chamber's leaders calling for more bipartisan meetings like the one held Monday in the old Senate chamber.
Sens. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., are seeking an increased number of events involving both Democratic and Republican senators. The meeting to discuss the Senate's rules helped diffuse the threat of the "nuclear option" on filibusters of executive branch nominees. It followed an earlier lunch gathering in the Kennedy Caucus Room to recognize the 40th anniversary of the release of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., from a prison in Vietnam.
The letter is somewhat reminiscent of the January 2011 move to bipartisan seating at the State of the Union address.
The request from Heinrich and Heller lines up with something that Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already told reporters he would like to do.
"We are going to do more meetings, and we're going to do them on a periodic basis. They won't be all meetings like last night. We need to have a subject to talk about," Reid said Tuesday. "But I can envision a number of things we could be doing that would be extremely good to get us together and talk to each other, rather than talk about each other."
Reid said he would like to invite former leaders George Mitchell, D-Maine, and Trent Lott, R-Miss., to speak about the Senate.
The full letter from Heller and Heinrich, sent to Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is here:
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Republican Leader McConnell:
We write to express our appreciation and support for convening a Joint Caucus meeting in the Old Senate Chamber this week. This occasion provided a unique opportunity for Members of this deliberative body to engage with one another in a significant way. Senators from both sides of the aisle were able to have a respectful, yet frank and open discussion about issues that substantially impact the Rules that govern this Chamber. We believe it was a productive meeting, and that similar gatherings should be repeated in the future.
We respectfully ask that you consider instituting joint bipartisan activities on a more consistent basis. Establishing regular face-to-face bipartisan conversations as an institutional norm would allow Members to build a stronger rapport with one other, and thus, provide more of an opportunity to find common ground and room for compromise.
Our constituents sent us to Washington to solve the problems and challenges that they face every day. By putting partisanship aside, we can deliver a better America if we work together. We believe that fostering relationships made possible through regular bipartisan interactions is one of the most essential ways to achieve that goal.
United States Senator
United States Senator