US senators used 'talking stick during government shutdown talks

At one point, a senator tossed the stick across the room at a colleague

Clark Mindock
New York
Tuesday 23 January 2018 20:34 GMT
Susan Collins shows her 'talking stick' on CNN

During bipartisan negotiations to find common ground and reopen the federal government this week, the world’s so-called greatest deliberative body resorted to a negotiating exercise favoured in elementary schools all around America: A “talking stick”.

Senator Susan Collins, a Republican, made an appearance on CNN Tuesday and showed off the colourful stick that senators were required to hold during the discussions if they wanted to talk.

“I can show it to you,” Ms Collins said before holding up the stick. She had made the rule to help along the negotiations, and was able to do so because the talks were conducted in her office.

“As you can see, it’s beautifully beaded and it was given to me by my friend, Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota,” Ms Collins said. “It is originally from Africa, and it is used to help control the debate in a meeting, particularly when you have a large number of loquacious people.”

Ms Collins said that the stick was mostly successful in its mission to keep people from talking over one another, but acknowledged rumors that the stick had been “forcefully delivered” across the room by one senator to another after they were interrupted.

“Is it true, Senator, that someone threw the stick during the meeting?” CNN host Chris Cuomo asked.

“I think a more accurate word would be that there was — usually, I would pick up the stick and take it from person to person, but sometimes it was tossed,” Ms Collins said. “And in this case, the toss went slightly amiss.

The Senate voted Monday night to end a government shutdown that had lasted just under three full days. Democrats had initially demanded that the funding bill include help for Dreamers, but ultimately settled for promises from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that he would allow a vote on a bipartisan Dreamer bill.

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