Sen. Orrin Hatch has inherited the right to sit where he pleases. The longest-serving Republican senator has chosen a spot directly behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, an aisle seat in the middle of the action. During a late Thursday session in March—a day filled with a rapid succession of amendment votes—Hatch could be found calmly seated, reading glasses on, his fingers skimming the words to a book detailing the establishment of the postwar world's monetary system. It's a spot where he can multitask while remaining in the center of the chamber's floor.
"I'm closer to the aisle, which I've always tried to be so that you can get recognition," the Utah Republican said. "In a very serious situation, sometimes getting recognition is the difference between winning and losing."
Next to him is Sen. Thad Cochran, who joined the Senate just two years after Hatch in 1979. The pair of veterans, along with Sen. Richard Shelby, make up the three-person row behind Republican leadership and near the presiding officer. And that's how Cochran likes it.
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But sometimes, the pull of the neighborhood keeps a senator in a seat with a dismal vantage point. Take Sen. Chris Murphy: front row, end seat in the Democratic section farthest from the center. From the press area, a reporter has to stand up and peer over the railing to see the Connecticut Democrat—if he's there.
"Most of the time I actually sit at Brian's desk," Murphy said, referring to Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, "because you can't see anything from my desk, so often Brian has to kick me out of sitting in his seat."
He had the chance to move—but, likely, that would have meant leaving behind his row-mates, Schatz and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. "They're both friends, and during these long vote sessions, it's kind of nice to be sitting next to friends," Murphy said.
That doesn't mean he always physically sits during votes, as many senators don't. They usually dart around the floor, in and out of the cloakroom, to and from leadership. The desks, though, can make comparing notes just that much easier.
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Two Senate delegations sit next to each other. For the Tennessee senators, it was a happy coincidence. For the Idaho senators, it was on purpose.
Sens. Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander sit in the farthest section on the Republican side from the center of the chamber. Alexander has the aisle seat. Corker sits to his right.
"I think we both just like sitting down on that row," Corker said. "A lot of people don't like it because of the angle that the cameras are. I know numbers of people have moved from that situation, and they'd rather be out in the middle. "¦ I think we both like sitting there; it's an easy place to sit and talk with other people when things are going on, but for me, certainly, being beside someone I think so much of is a plus."