WASHINGTON — Rand Paul just wanted to have some coffee talk.
On day three of the government shutdown, Paul had invited senators and House members to a “bipartisan coffee” on the steps of the Senate to “see if we can get along.”
What actually happened was that seven members of Congress awkwardly huddled in the heat in front of an audience of about 30 members of the press. Only one Democrat showed up: Tom Carper of Delaware, who arrived — grabbing Paul’s hand — and proclaimed, “All right, everyone, let’s sing ‘Kumbaya’!”
Carper told reporters that Majority Leader Harry Reid had dispatched him to represent the Democrats at the event.
“He knows I’m not a big coffee drinker, but I enjoyed the fellowship,” he said.
Conservative House members Thomas Massie, Mick Mulvaney, and Brett Guthrie crossed the Capitol for some caffeine. Massie at one point asked Rand why Senate Republicans couldn’t force a vote on the piecemeal bills to fund the NIH or parks services passed by the House.
“We don’t control the floor,” Paul shrugged.
Republicans Susan Collins and Johnny Isakson arrived, and the topic veered to NASCAR for about five minutes. Collins, who disagreed with the House tactic of trying to defund or delay Obamacare through the short-term funding measure, sighed and said, “alright enough of this softball talk.”
She spoke quietly and brought members in close to hear her, out of earshot from reporters. Everyone nodded and when the huddle broke up, the coffee was deemed over.
“She expressed what all of us were thinking, which is if the president would give something, anything…he’s not engaged in negotiations,” Massie said after the meeting broke up. “I think it was disingenuous to invite the leadership over there and pull the football away Charlie Brown style.”
A reporter asked Carper after the event if he considered the coffee “bipartisan,” to which Carper replied, “Well, I was there, so yes.”