WASHINGTON – It is day three of the government shutdown and congress remains at an impasse. So, Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul decided to take matters into his own hands.
On Wednesday, Paul sent an invitation to other lawmakers inviting them to come grab coffee with him on the Capitol steps.
“Maybe by chatting over coffee together we can just talk and see if we can get along,” he wrote.
So on this sunny Thursday morning, reporters gathered in front of the Capitol steps to await members and witness the impending breakthrough.
A large vat of coffee from Corner Bakery awaited decaffeinated Senators.
Paul was the first to arrive. For a time, he huddled on the side with aides, awaiting some company. It is hard to be the first person at a party.
He was shortly joined by Kentucky Rep. Brett Guthrie, another Republican. An aide walked up the steps and got them coffee, and the coffee drinking part of the event commenced.
Next up was Republican South Carolina Rep. Mick Mulvaney, and he was quickly followed by Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, who made a much grander entrance than anyone else, by descending the Capitol steps.
Then came Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson. Barrasso and Mulvaney took seats on the steps, and began their important discussions, like which lawmakers attended Georgetown for their undergraduate degree, and then they quickly moved on to baseball cards.
Mulvaney joked to Paul: “Those may be the ugliest dress shoes I have seen in a long time.” Paul appeared unperturbed.
Then came another Kentucky Republican: Rep. Thomas Massie. He grabbed his own coffee.
The circle tightened, and the press inched closer and closer to better hear their conversations. We were not close enough, however, to understand Rep. Mulvaney’s Obamacare joke, which involved asking if people liked his tie, and something about a third party exchange.
With the arrival of Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, the coffee, though not yet bipartisan, at least became coed.
“I came for the company, not the coffee,” she said.
Democratic Sen. Tom Carper was the next to arrive. He got right to work, grabbing the hands of Collins and Paul and declaring: “Let’s sing Kumbaya.”
Carper told reporters after that he came at the request of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who was unable to attend the coffee, and had asked Carper to represent him. Carper, who is apparently very much not a coffee drinker, said he agreed to go, but only if he did not have to drink coffee.
“I was the token, but I was happy to be the token,” Carper told reporters after.
The subject turned to NASCAR, and then to baseball. Collins put a stop to that, telling the assembled members, “enough of this baseball talk.”
Collins pulled them in close, so that she could tell them “the solution” to the shutdown, without being overheard by the press, who at that point, had inched so close we were practically in the circle.
Paul, loud enough for the press to hear, said he thought it might help “once a month to have everybody sit in their chair” in the chamber and have a formal debate.
Shortly thereafter, the coffee disbanded, and members wandered back inside. But for a few minutes after, several congressmen could be seen wandering out to the steps, looking for the event. After standing around confusedly for a moment, they grabbed some coffee and wandered off again.