Hoping to begin rebuilding bridges frayed by years of neglect and abuse, President Obama last night bought dinner for a dozen Republican Senators as the two sides broke bread to try to begin reaching an accommodation on the budget and other issues.
Senators are not used to skimping on meals, and the dinner must have set the president – who paid out of his own pocket – back a pretty penny. Or more like some Susan Anthony dollars.
The outing at Washington’s posh Jefferson Hotel could easily have cost a grand or two, especially if it was held at the Jefferson’s exquisite Plume restaurant, which has a prix fixe menu costing $85, before you start including booze, which senators like to include.
Lawmakers emerged from the powwow describing it as a positive meeting and a friendly gathering that focused on the possibility of eventually reaching a deal on the budget and deficit reduction. But the meeting does not appear to have been any kind of a negotiating session – rather more of a way to build trust and relationships that have been absent for much of Obama’s term.
The meeting is part of Obama’s sudden new outreach to Republicans. He invited the senators to the dinner, and he has also asked House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) to have lunch with him at the White House today. The committee’s ranking member, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, will also join them.
Emerging from the gathering, Sen. John McCain of Arizona gave reporters the thumbs up, as did Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, who was close to Obama when the two served together in the Senate. No word on whether they were referencing the food or the meeting.
I’m assuming the latter.
Also dining Wednesday evening, according to the White House, were Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Bob Corker of Tennessee, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, and Dan Coats of Indiana.