- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

WASHINGTON (AP) - Republicans and Democrats agree: They successfully ate lunch together Wednesday, it was enjoyable and - perhaps coincidentally - they discussed no topic of substance.

“Fun,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the way out.

“Touchy-feely,” is how West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin described it.

The joint dining was notable mostly because it happened, after an era of bitterness that periodically halted congressional business. Lawmakers have long complained that members of Congress in recent years don’t socialize or really know each other, leading to a polarization of the parties. Forty-six of 100 senators are in their first term, never having known the Senate any other way.

With the 2014 midterm elections putting the Senate under Republican control and increasing the GOP majority in the House, members of Congress have sought a fresh start.

So under the soaring ceiling of the Kennedy Caucus Room, members gathered in private to hear about how the Senate used to work. That is, together, more or less. In that spirit, hostess Susan Collins, a Republican senator from Maine, contributed lobster. Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner sent ham from his state.

Several senators said they hoped to break bread together more often, perhaps monthly.

“It’s more fun to cover a fight than it is us getting along,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., observed of reporters. “I’m hoping we have less grist for your mill and that we have less partisan fights and more times that we can figure out ways that we can agree on things.”

Not an hour later, they were back to brinksmanship on the Senate floor over a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security and an effort to overturn President Barack Obama’s recent actions on immigration.

___

Associated Press writer Erica Werner contributed to this report.

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