Senators: Monthly lunches might spark bipartisanship

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Two Southwestern senators say their colleagues might find some common ground if they start holding monthly bipartisan lunches.

Sens. Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Martin Henrich, D-New Mexico, are lobbying their parties’ top members, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and incoming Minority Leader Harry Reid, to start holding the meetings.

They’ve organized a group of 32 senators who made the request in a letter this week.

They pointed to a “frank, open and fruitful discussion” the two parties held in the Old Senate Chamber in July 2013, and said more of those meetings might help — especially with nearly half the Senate’s members serving their first terms.

“We believe that regular bipartisan meetings like the one in July 2013 can help foster the kind of productive relationships that will be critical for the Senate to live up to its reputation as the world’s most deliberative body,” the senators wrote to McConnell and Reid.

“It is our hope that our respective leadership teams can take concrete steps to broaden the relationships and deepen the rapport among members,” they wrote. “Specifically, we believe that monthly bipartisan lunches would serve this goal. Given that our caucuses already meet separately at least twice weekly, surely scheduling a bipartisan lunch just once a month would make for a workable option.”

Their request comes after months of howling about the Senate’s ability to function. Republicans blame Reid, the outgoing majority leader, for failing to give their bills and amendments a fair hearing. Democrats blame the GOP, saying its members have been bent for years on obstructing President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Republicans captured the Senate majority in this year’s midterm elections. McConnell will become the majority leader when new lawmakers are sworn in early next year.

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