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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.