Senators to Gather in Closed Meeting

Charles Babington reports, “Senate Democrats, who campaigned on a pledge of more openness in government, will kick off the 110th Congress with a closed meeting of all 100 senators in the Capitol.”

Tim Chapman and Ed Morrissey express concern about the kinds of shenanigans Senators might commit hidden from the sunshine, the latter with a clever allusion to an old Charlie Rich tune. While I’m naturally pretty skeptical of politicians in general and Reid in particular, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

The Senate has lost much of the collegiality that marked it as a distinct institution from the House of Representatives. Having them get together from time to time without the cameras running and providing temptation to spout off sound bytes that might get them a few seconds of air time could help rebuild a sense of trust among the Members. The occasional off-the-record bull session, hopefully followed by routine lunches, dinners, and after work trips to the pub in smaller groups, would almost certainly be a good thing.

I don’t expect, or even desire, that more social interaction will convince Democrats and Republicans to start holding hands and singing Kumbaya. Frankly, the less they agree, the better since it means fewer laws get passed. But we need to restore the sense that people can genuinely want what’s good for the country and yet disagree on the policies to best achieve that aim. Getting people out of permanent campaign stump speech mode is a good start.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. spencer says:

    very good

  2. Kent G. Budge says:

    I can give the strongest argument against sunshine laws and other manifestations of our national allergy to private meetings between statesmen in two words:

    Constitutional Convention.

    (I mean the one presided over by George Washington.)

  3. David Liberty says:

    The sunshine laws in this thread are not nearly as crucial as conflict-of-interest laws. The laws governing how Congress deals with legislation where its members have vested interests and/or a history of favors are obscene and elicit and nurture corruption. Closed door meetings just exacerbate this kind of dirty dealing, because the conflict rules have no teeth. Make the conflict of interest rules real and closed door meetings might actually produce legislation that has merit instead of bridges to nowhere.