Thursday, March 07, 2013

President Obama Is "Pleased" With Dinner For Senate Republicans; The Menu

Carney:  President thought dinner was "very constructive and pleasant"...
President Obama was "pleased" with the dinner he hosted for a dozen Republican Senators on Wednesday evening, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Thursday.  The bipartisan bread-breaking at the tony Jefferson Hotel lasted a little more than two hours, and was designed to cool the chilly relations with GOP lawmakers. 
"I spoke with the President about this a little while ago, and he said that he found the dinner very constructive and very pleasant," Carney said.  "He said that there seemed to be sincere interest in avoiding constant crisis, sincere interest expressed by the participants in the dinner."

The White House on Wednesday night revealed the names of the President's guests, and said Mr. Obama paid for the meal out of his own pocket.  But Carney said no more details would be forthcoming about the diner that included Sens. John McCain, Tom Coburn, Bob Corker, Kelly Ayotte, Dan Coats, Richard Burr, Mike Johanns, Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, John Hoeven, Saxby Chambliss, and Lindsey Graham, who organized the guest list.

"We’re not going to get into details about these conversations, in part because we’re trying to help foster an environment where these conversations are productive, and they help the cause of finding common ground for bipartisan solutions to the challenges we face," Carney said.

UPDATE:  The Washington Post reported that the dinner, costing $85 per person excluding tip or tax, was in the hotel's Parlor Boardroom.  President Obama and his guests ordered from a three-course prix-fixe menu:  "The White House specifically requested that the staff of Plume restaurant include the Maryland blue crab risotto appetizer and filet of prime beef entree among the options." 

The hotel was "sworn to secrecy" about who ordered what dish, but told the Post that "there were six orders of the filet, five of the Colorado lamb açaí, four Lobster Thermidors, and one special-ordered vegetarian plate. Dessert options included peanut butter crumble, heart of guana chocolate tart and iced Tahitian vanilla and praline bar." Four unidentified aides attended the dinner in addition to the President and Senators.  END UPDATE

"The President, again, was very pleased with the dinner," Carney said.  "He thought that it was constructive and pleasant."

The Jefferson Hotel was chosen as "neutral" ground, said Carney, though the President hosted many, many fundraisers there during his 2012 re-election race.

"The President thought that having dinner outside of the White House would be -- help create a positive environment, neutral ground, if you will," Carney said.

"I can confirm that in a conversation he had with Senator Graham, the President suggested that Senator Graham put together a group of his colleagues to have dinner with the President at an outside location and Senator Graham very graciously did that," Carney said.

The President was having lunch with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) as Carney gave his dinner recap, and the Press Secretary said there will be more eat n' greets in the days ahead.

The President "is going to continue to speak to lawmakers of both parties about what he said in the inaugural address, which is we don’t have to agree on everything, we don’t have to resolve all of our differences in order to move forward on finding solutions to the challenges that we face, and recognizing that there is a bipartisan consensus in the country on so many of these issues," Carney said.

"He will continue to engage with Republicans as well as Democrats."

The President heads for Capitol Hill next week for more wooing sessions with both sides of the aisle.