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The broken Senate

A class photo of the 110th United States Senate. Photo: U.S. Senate, 110th Congress, Senate Photo Studio

New Yorker staff writer George Packer once imagined that when he sees a senator giving an impassioned speech in the Senate chamber on C-Span, there are actually other legislators there listening, weighing the words, preparing to debate its finer points. It turns out, he learned, that senator is very likely speaking to an empty room, solely for the benefit of the TV camera.

George Packer

That was only one of the things Packer reported in his critique of the Senate, “The Empty Chamber,” his story on what he terms “a sclerotic, wasteful, unhappy body.”

Need to Know senior producer Tom Casciato sat down with Packer to hear his take on the dysfunction of the Senate. Look for Packer on the November 5 broadcast of Need to Know.  In the meantime, you can listen to an extended version of their discussion below, or read the transcript here.



  • Teejrocks

    The link in the article is incorrect. (http:///)

  • Anonymous

    Sorry. That link has been fixed and is working now.

  • Jlilac999

    Incredible information….

  • Tyrone S.

    I’ve been waiting a long time for a story like this. Been curious a while now what the heck they were doing in there. The “scrolling through the blackberry” part was awfully telling of just how bad things have gotten. Embarrassing.

  • misael

    at some piont you have too many heads to come out with a single thougt. simplicity is alway the soultion to complexity. without enlitenment how can any one see thuougt the dark and merkey futuer, and if you cant see it how can you plan for it. the kind of people who need personal acknolagment for the work they do for our socitey, are the exactly the opposet of the type of human beings needed to drive our socetiy tordards its ultament destiney.