Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Coffee with 2 Senators a Free Exchange of Ideas

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Coffee with 2 Senators a Free Exchange of Ideas

Article excerpt

AT 8:30 A.M. EVERY Thursday when Congress is in session, Dick Durbin and Carol Moseley-Braun meet with Illinoisans - or anyone else who shows up - to discuss the people's business, over coffee and doughnuts.

Unlike the now-famous White House coffees for big-money contributors, admission to the half-hour session with the Democratic senators is free. ("But the coffee is $1,000 a cup," Durbin quipped.)

The meetings were started several years ago by Durbin's predecessor, Paul Simon, and Moseley-Braun. Although he's only participated in a few of the sessions, Durbin said he's found them worthwhile. When Durbin was a member of the House, he tried to see every constituent from his district who came to Washington. That's impossible now that he represents the whole state, so he appreciates the chance to meet and greet at least some of the folks from home. "Each one of these is a learning experience," he said. This past Thursday, about 50 people gathered in a hearing room in the Dirksen office building to listen to the senators, ask questions, put in a plug for their pet projects and get their pictures taken with the politicians. Durbin talked about the problems of nuclear waste disposal, while Moseley-Braun focused on rebuilding schools. Robert Grobbe, of Kewanee, Ill., listened with a group of students he had brought. He was a little disappointed that there weren't more actual questions. "Most people were here to lobby for their individual interests - `Please fund my project,' " he said. "But I still think it's a good idea." Moseley-Braun said the meetings help her to realize what's on the minds of at least some voters and to better speak to the concerns of her constituents."It's a unique opportunity for feedback and synergy," she said. "It makes you hone your own message." Sometimes, she said, the sessions can have an immediate impact. …

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