Capitol Hill (CNN) – The Occupy Wall Street protest may be holding ground in New York and at sites around the country, but protesters apparently have yet to make a deep mark inside the U.S. Capitol.
(Click here for this week's American Sauce podcast on how protests are changing in America, including how the Occupy movement and the tea party may be more similar than they'd like to admit.)
CNN's American Sauce asked a number of senators what they think the movement is about, and the initial responses were consistent.
"What do I think of the what?" asked Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia. "The which one?" responded Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey. Republican Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, also checked the question, asking, "The what?" After we repeated the movement's name and explained it was the month-old protest centered in New York, senators showed more recognition and a strikingly similar view.
"It's about frustration," declared Lautenberg, "it's about an inability for people to get attention to their problems. That's what it's about."
"I think I have a sense of frustration that people feel," responded Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania. Casey stated he didn't feel prepared to analyze the movement and that the question of purpose is one for the protesters. When he did offer specifics on the issues involved, however, the Democratic senator seemed to point more to general grievances in American society, instead of the stand-out calls from Occupy participants.
"People are frustrated by two things," Casey said, "Number one, that we're not creating jobs at a fast enough pace and number two, that they don't feel we're working together to try and improve that situation."
In contrast, McCain seemed closer to understand a key theme of Occupy Wall Street.
"I think it's about the frustration and anger about the inequities of the economy," he said. "In some ways I am in agreement with them that we bailed out the major financial institutions… and it's disgraceful that we took care of the financial institution and did nothing about the housing market."
The former presidential candidate paused and then added, "I may be the only Republican you hear that from."
The hazy and inconsistent recognition by lawmakers of the Occupy Wall Street movement shows what may be a steep climb for the one-month-old movement to get not just attention, but understanding from officials in Washington.
One problem is logistical: Congress is mired in muddy, detailed debates over jobs, the economy and the deficit. The other is theoretical: politicians are unaccustomed to movements with no clear leader and no specific demands.
Corroborating McCain's prediction, his fellow Republican Chambliss seemed underline the disconnect with the Occupy movement, telling American Sauce, "To be honest I haven't paid much attention to it."
Listen to this week's podcast here for more on how protests are changing in America, including a look at what's happened with the once omnipresent Code Pink.
You can also listen to American Sauce on iTunes, Stitcher or subscribe to the podcast via RSS.
– CNN's Dan Szematowicz, Jonathan Binder and Emma Lacey-Bordeaux contributed to this report.