Hillary Clinton returned to the Senate Thursday to discuss the state of her presidential campaign and thank Senate Democrats for their support.
“It was a love fest,” said Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. after the lunch.
The presumptive Democratic nominee’s arrival caused a stir around the Capitol. Police blocking off hallways and Hill staffers gathering outside the Senate Democrats’ lunch to catch a glimpse of her. A van in her motorcade was even involved in a crash on the East Front.
Inside the meeting room just off the Senate floor, Clinton discussed a range of issues — including the economy, campaign strategy and the Supreme Court — with her former colleagues. She represented New York in the Senate for eight years, before becoming Secretary of State in 2009.
“We’re really concerned with how we build a strong Democratic Party, not just for this election, but beyond,” Clinton told reporters after the meeting. “And I’m going to do everything I can to work with my friends and colleagues here to make that happen.”
Her likely Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, met with GOP senators last week, but faced some questions from lawmakers who have not yet backed him.
Most Senate Democrats endorsed Clinton over Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who also sought the nomination. After a lengthy primary, Sanders endorsed Clinton on Tuesday.
Before the Clinton meeting began, Sanders and Schumer, who is expected to be the next Democratic leader, met privately. Sanders said they discussed “making sure the Republicans do not retain control of the Senate.”
Though Sanders is an Independent, he caucuses with Democrats. According to Sen. Chris Coons, Sanders made “positive” remarks about Clinton during the lunch, and the likely nominee made a point of thanking Sanders for his endorsement.
Coons said Clinton encouraged senators who were interested to join her on the campaign trail. The Delaware Democrat said he was “one of many” who volunteered.
Several senators posed questions to Clinton during the meeting, including one who asked “sort of in jest” if Clinton would reveal her vice presidential pick. She declined.
Several Senate Democrats are believed to be under consideration, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Tim Kaine of Virginia. Kaine was campaigning with Clinton Thursday afternoon.
“She assured us she’d pick someone very qualified,” said Sen. Christopher S. Murphy said.
Murphy said he spoke with Clinton after her presentation and question-and-answer session, and encouraged her to keep talking about gun safety issues. Murphy has been a leading proponent of gun control measures and lead a 15-hour filibuster on the issue last month.
“I encouraged her to stay vocal on this issue. This is turning into an issue that swing voters care about … She agreed,” Murphy said.
Some women senators were energized coming out of the meeting. Thirteen women Democratic senators endorsed Clinton back in November 2015 (all but Warren). They are expected to have a prime time role at the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., later this month.
The dean of the Senate women, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., was spotted with a “Hillary” pin on her jacket.
“We were talking about all of their strategies of organizing and mobilizing for victory,” Mikulski said. “Hoorah!”