Wednesday, April 24, 2013

President Obama Hosts White House Dinner For All Twenty Women Senators

Gathered in the Blue Room, the President and his bipartisan guests discuss critical issues over Alaskan halibut, peach pie, and wine; the President has now dined with half of the Senate...
President Obama on Tuesday evening welcomed all twenty women who serve in the Senate--four Republicans and sixteen Democrats--for a two-hour, candle-lit dinner that began at 6:30 PM in the Blue Room.  The President sat at the head of the rectangular table for the bipartisan gathering, with Sen. Mazie Hirono, Dem from his home state of Hawaii, on his left; she tweeted the photo, above.  Hirono is in red; beside her are Sens. Kay Hagan (D-NC); Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA). 

The affair was the President's fourth in a series of dinners for Senators, and his second held at the White House.  The policy conversation was wide-ranging, according to a White House official, covering key points on the President's agenda, from the budget to Boston to gun control and cybersecurity.

President Obama "enjoyed continuing his discussion with the senators about a wide range of items on the agenda, including working together to find common ground on budget issues and new initiatives to grow our economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class," the White House official said.

The menu starred Alaskan Halibut as the entree and peach pie for dessert, with both red and white wine offered as each Senator brought up her own priorities during the gathering.

"The President discussed our continued focus on passing commonsense immigration reform that will strengthen our national security and our economy," the White House official said, as well as "passing measures to reduce gun violence and expanding educational opportunities for all our children." 

Republican guests included Sens. Kelly Ayotte (NH), Susan Collins (Maine), Deb Fischer (Neb) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska).

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), one of just four Democrats who last week voted against the White House-backed legislation for expanded background checks for gun purchases, was at the dinner, as was Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the crucial Senate Budget Committee, who organized the guest list for the President's most recent dinner with Democratic Senators, held at the Jefferson Hotel last week.  

Charges were filed against the Boston Marathon bombing suspect on Tuesday, and during the dinner the President "reiterated his commitment to ensuring all resources remain available as a part of the ongoing investigation into the explosions in Boston last week and commended law enforcement efforts," the White House official said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a message put out by hackers on the Twitter page of the Associated Press said the President had been harmed in a White House explosion, and thus the very timely issue of cyber security was also part of the pow wow.

As was the case for the President's other Senate dinners, the event was closed to press.  The Blue Room is the center oval drawing room on the State Floor, annually home to the Official Christmas tree, and site of the President's private swearing-in ceremony for his second term.  A view of the Washington Monument is framed in each window.  The White House had previously announced the dinner would be in the State Dining Room, but the Blue Room is far more intimate.  The three low floral arrangements on the un-clothed wooden table were green and white flowers, with pops of purple.  The candle sticks were sterling.

Props for the President on Twitter...
Some of the President's guests gave him the thumbs-up on Twitter after the dinner concluded.

"Enjoyed joining my #Senate colleagues at the @whitehouse to break bread with President Obama," Sen. Hirono tweeted with the photo at top.

"Thank you, Pres. @BarackObama for hosting the Senate women for dinner at the @WhiteHouse tonight. Had a great discussion. #offthesidelines," tweeted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

She is being credited with suggesting the dinner to the President; the women Senators regularly have bipartisan dinner meetings, Gillibrand said in an interview, and she suggested that the President join them.  He instead suggested a White House dinner, she said.

Gillibrand tweeted about the dinner as soon as it was announced on Monday, and other Senators tweeted on Tuesday ahead of the dinner.

"Looking forward to dinner @ White House w Pres Obama & bipartisan Senate women tonight. Will discuss need to come together 2 move US forward" tweeted Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), the longest-serving woman Senator, in office since 1987.

"Heading to the White House tonight for dinner with President Obama and the women of the Senate," tweeted Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

"Looking forward to our 20-strong women senators dinner @thewhitehouse w @barackobama tonight. Glad 2 see the emphasis on bipartisanship!" tweeted Minnesota's Klobuchar.

Fifty Senators left to dine with...
As of Tuesday, the President has now dined with half of the members of the Senate, and there are plans for more get-togethers, according to Press Secretary Jay Carney.

"You can be confident that his outreach will continue and these meetings, both large and small, will continue as he seeks to work with the Senate, work with the Congress, to get common-sense business done that the American people want their elected representatives to get done," Carney told reporters last week.

Six of the Senators attended the President's previous dinners, which broke down along party lines rather than gender lines--there were two for Republicans and one for Democrats.  Sen. Ayotte  joined President Obama for his first dinner with Republicans  on March 6th at the Jefferson Hotel.  Sens. Fischer and Collins  attended the President's second dinner for Republicans at the White House on April 10th, held in the Old Family Dining Room.  In addition to Sen. Murray, Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (NH) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich) joined President Obama for his third dinner with Democrats at the Jefferson Hotel on April 17th.

The full guest list for Tuesday's dinner: 

Senator Kelly Ayotte, R-NH
Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-WI
Senator Barbara Boxer, D-CA
Senator Maria Cantwell, D-WA
Senator Susan Collins, R-ME
Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA
Senator Deb Fischer, R-NE
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY
Senator Kay Hagan, D-NC
Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND
Senator Mazie Hirono, D-HI
Senator Amy Klobuchar, D-MN
Senator Mary Landrieu, D-LA
Senator Lisa Murkowski, R-AK
Senator Barbara Mikulski, D-MD
Senator Patty Murray, D-WA
Senator Claire McCaskill, D-MO
Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-MI
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH
Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-MA

The guest list for the President's previous Senate dinners: 

The President's first dinner with Republican Senators  was on March 6th at the Jefferson Hotel, and the guest list was organized by Gang of Eight member Lindsey Graham (SC).  Attendees included Gang of Eight member John McCain (AZ); Saxby Chambliss (GA); John Hoeven (ND); Bob Corker (TN); Mike Johanns (Neb);  Richard Burr (NC); Dan Coats (Ind); Ron Johnson (WI); Pat Toomey (PA) and Kelly Ayotte (NH).

The President's second dinner for Republicans  at the White House on April 10 had a guest list organized by Sen. Johhny Isakson (GA).  Attendees included Lamar Alexander (TN); John Boozman (ARK); Susan Collins (Maine); Michael D. Crapo (ID), Michael B. Enzi (WY), Deb Fischer (Neb), Orrin G. Hatch (UT), Pat Roberts (KS), Marco Rubio (FL), a Gang of Eight member; John Thune (SD) and Roger Wicker (Miss).    

The President's third dinner for Democratic Senators at the White House on April 17 was organized by Sen. Murray.  Sen. Majority Whip Dick Durbin (Ill.) and Sens. Michael Bennet (CO); Chris Coons (DE); Dianne Feinstein (CA); Mary Landrieu (LA); Jeanne Shaheen (NH); Debbie Stabenow (Mich); Ron Wyden (OR); Mark Warner (VA); and Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed, both from Rhode Island. 

*Photo courtesy of Sen. Mazie Hirono