On the third day of a congressional impasse over how and whether to provide the money needed to end a government shutdown, a small group of House members and senators paused Thursday for a coffee break.
"Maybe by chatting over coffee we can just talk and see if we can get along," Paul wrote Tuesday in an invitation to colleagues.
The small group that showed up, numbering fewer than a dozen and far outnumbered by reporters, did get along — but the gathering was more bicameral than bipartisan.
"You guys got it figured out yet, what's gonna happen?" Paul asked some of the assembled House Republicans, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney, of South Carolina, and Thomas Massie, of Kentucky.
But some senators, honoring the longstanding Senate-House rivalry, half-jokingly doubted the likelihood of a House-devised solution.
"The House is the problem," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, laughed, "let's be very clear about that."
When conversation veered away from shop-talk, as it did for most of the meet-up, lawmakers chatted idly about subjects ranging from car racing to baseball cards.
Eventually, one Democrat did show up: Sen. Tom Carper, of Delaware.
"Alright, everyone!" Carper said, patting Collins and Paul on the backs. "Let's sing Kumbaya."
After a quick 30 minutes, the lawmakers dispersed. Aides were already beginning to tote away the coffee when Sen. Roger Wicker emerged from a door atop the Capitol steps.
"Is it over? I wanted to get my bipartisan ticket punched," Wicker, R-Miss., said as he trotted down toward the aides. "So, what was the point of this?"
They gave Wicker the upshot, and he reflected for a moment on the budget stalemate as he grabbed a cup of coffee.
"I don't see how we get out of this," Wicker said, looking out across the Capitol plaza. He turned back to an aide. "Well, anyway, count me as someone who came."