During impromptu press conference at deli, President blasts House Republicans and praises owners for offering furlough discounts...
Washington DC - President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden had a highly symbolic lunch excursion outside the White House on Friday, day four of the government shutdown. Surrounded by a scrum of media and Secret Service, the President and the Vice President (wearing his signature Aviator shades) strolled out of the White House under hot and sunny skies to make a previously unannounced visit to Taylor Gourmet sandwich shop at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue, about a block from the Executive Mansion. (Above, ordering from staffer Asialon Ware at the counter)
During an impromptu press conference, the President praised co-owners Casey Patten and David Mazza for
giving ten percent discounts--and free cookies--to furloughed workers,
before taking the opportunity to again blast House Republicans, saying Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) should immediately put the shutdown to a vote.
Mr. Obama has previously visited a different Taylor Gourmet shop. The company has six outlets in DC and sells Philadelphia-style hoagies. After arriving at 12:28 PM, the President, clad in a pale blue dress shirt with his sleeves rolled up, a striped tie and dark pants, ordered his lunch.
"Part of the reason we're here is we're starving, and the food is great here," President Obama said to the thrilled staff and patrons.
He ordered the 12" "Race Street" hoagie on whole wheat, which has 'Taylor Homestyle' roasted turkey, prosciutto, pesto, red onions, and fresh mozzarella ($9.50), as well as a cookie and Taylor bottled water ($1.50).
"I'll get wheat bread--I can tell Michelle I'm eating healthy," President Obama said as he ordered.
Biden ordered the 6" "9th Street Italian" hoagie on whole wheat, which has Genoa salami, capicola, prosciutto, and sharp provolone ($7.10), as well as a cookie and a can of Sanpellegrino Limonata ($1.50).
The President got his cookie after the Veep declined to share: "It's one package, man. I'm not giving you my cookie," Biden said.
Taylor Gourmet's furlough discount, the President said, "is an indication of how ordinary Americans are looking out for one another."
Pivoting to the main point of his visit, the President declared that the House "has the opportunity" to end the government shutdown "right now."
"This shutdown could be over today. We have the votes. Speaker Boehner needs to allow the vote," President Obama said.
"I'm happy to have negotiations, but we can't do it with a gun held to the head of the American people," President Obama said.
The President paid cash for his order, which was full price; he doesn't get the furlough discount because he's still on the job. He wasn't charged for the cookies, however, which were dark chocolate and macadamia nut. The total bill was $21.56, and the President gave cashier Asialon Ware $40, and instructed her to keep the $18.44 in change.
As he prepared to depart, the President was asked by pool if the White House is "winning" the shutdown showdown--a reference to a senior Administration official quoted in Friday's Wall Street Journal. The President stopped and responded.
"There's no winning when families don't have certainty about whether they're gonna get paid or not," President Obama said. "As long as they're off the job, nobody's winning."
After posing for photos with Taylor staff, the President went outside, and worked two rope lines in front of the shop, shaking hands with excited citizens before walking back to the White House with his entourage, Press Secretary Jay Carney by his side. Pool shouted a question asking if there is a chef on duty at the White House, but couldn't hear the answer.
Assistant Chef Sam Kass is among the White House staffers who have been deemed "non-essential" during the shutdown, and he is now on furlough. There is reportedly at least one unidentified chef among the "skeleton" crew of 15 Executive Residence staffers--down from the usual 90 staffers--on duty.
During his stroll from the White House, the President received cheers and shouts of encouragement from onlookers, including "hang tough Mr. President," and "you're doing the right thing." (Above, walking back to the White House, hoagie in hand)
The walk to Taylor Gourmet comes a day after a woman tried to ram her car through a White House barricade on Thursday afternoon, which resulted in a car chase to Capitol Hill, where the woman was shot and killed by police.
The President and Vice President as they walked to and from the White House were unaccompanied by junior aides, now on furlough, who would normally shepherd the press corps as they followed the principals. Senior aides tried to do the wrangling, but at one point during the walk to the shop, the President himself intervened, telling the reporters and photographers trailing behind him to get in front of him.
The moment is captured in the video the White House released about the President's visit, created by members of the White House new media team who are not among the hundreds of staffers who are now on shutdown furlough:
As for negotiations: Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) met with the President at the White House on Wednesday night for a
closed-door meeting to discuss the shutdown, but they reached no accord. Boehner afterwards told reporters that the President didn't want to negotiate, something he again repeated today when speaking to media.
The President and the Speaker have similar taste in sandwiches, however. Brendan Buck, Boehner's Press Secretary, tweeted about the President's Taylor Gourmet visit, writing "Common ground: John Boehner really likes Taylor Gourmet."
But Buck added a caveat in another tweet: "For those calling for a sandwich summit, they already gave that a go last year," and included the White House photo, below.
The President fed Taylor Gourmet hoagies to Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when he hosted them for a luncheon at the White House in May of 2012, for a gathering designed to end partisan bickering. He also hosted a roundtable at the eatery on the same day, to discuss his "To-Do List" for Congress and small business needs with co-owners Patten and Mazza. (Above, a White House photo of the lunch)
Taylor Gourmet later reported an uptick in sales, declaring it a 'Barack Boost.' Mazza and Patten also own two other Taylor Gourmets, in Maryland and in Virginia.
President Obama had no official public events listed on his Friday schedule. (Above, working the ropeline outside Taylor Gourmet on Friday)
The White House has announced the cancellation of his trip to Asia, scheduled to begin on Saturday. Earlier in the week the White House announced that half the trip had been cancelled. Secretary of State John Kerry will instead lead a delegation to the economic summits in Brunei and Indonesia the President was scheduled to attend.
Info: The Taylor Gourmet the President visited on Friday is at 1750 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC, 20006. Phone: 202-393-0800. The President previously visited the location at 1908 14th St. NW, Washington, DC, 20009. Phone: 202-588-7117. (Above, the President talks with a staffer identified by the White House as a delivery man)
*Updated with White House photos by Pete Souza/White House. White House video.