By JOE RUTHERFORD
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., arranged a second all-Senate caucus within a month on Thursday, a catered barbecue meal with chefs brought to Washington by Georgia Sen. Johnny Isaakson, a Republican.
Wicker, a Tupelo resident, is credited with inspiring and arranging a first bipartisan caucus meeting two weeks ago, a meeting that Wicker said brought the Senate back from “the brink” of a vote for a rule change by majority vote that would have all but destroyed the body’s collegiality.
That action, called the “nuclear option,” was averted, and the Senate went on to confirm a slate of President Obama’s nominees after a three-and-one-quarter hour conversation without dividing into separate caucuses.
Thursday’s meeting, also hosted by Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Mark Pryor, D-Ark., was “much more collegial” Wicker said Thursday afternoon, with conversations ranging all over the map, with many personal stories and reflections before leaving for a month-long recess.
Wicker, in a mid-afternoon telephone interview, said Thursday’s meeting was open and engaging even though senators had just come from a tense vote in which partisan positions were fully voiced.
“This is an opportunity for senators to start to talk to each other,” Wicker said. “Even on the most contentious issues there are areas where consensus can be reached.”
Wicker said he hopes going forward members will maintain strong positions but with the possibility of less rigid partisanship, with relationships like the one made famous by notable figures like Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill, who were close personally while remaining partisan warriors.
Wicker said he will spend the August recess among constituents in Mississippi.