From Sunlen Miller
Declaring it a "timeout" before they "dive back into the game" President Obama hosted a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to the White House for dinner tonight.
"The country is going though an extraordinarily difficult time, and we are going to have some monumental debates taking place over the next several months and years," The President said in the East Room before dinner, "We’re not always going to agree on everything. But given how hard so many of you are working on both sides of the aisle day in and day out, I thought it was important for us to be able to step back for a moment, and remind ourselves that we have things in common family, friends, laughter."
The administration has followed a pattern recently, opening up the White House on Wednesday nights for social events – a Stevie Wonder concert last Wednesday, and cocktail parties with various groups in weeks past.
"This is a pretty big house so we get lonely," Obama joked to his guests, "It’s hard for me to move around out there some times so I got to bring the world to me."
About 180 guests – House and Senate committee chairs, ranking members, members of Obama's cabinet, senior staff, legislative staff - and all their spouses – sat at elegant tables with white roses, white peonies and green apple centerpieces on a light blue tablecloth.
The dinner that followed – served on gold rimmed china - included Celery Soup, Wild Mushroom Crisps, Steelhead Salmon with Citrus sauce, Crispy Spinach, Toasted Saffron Couscous Pearls, Baby Iceberg lettuce with Maytag Bleu Cheese and Yogurt ranch dressing and for dessert, Milk Chocolate velvet cake.
Before the President’s entrance into the room, Vice President Joe Biden worked the room.
"You know Pete Orszag," Biden said jokingly introducing the OMB Director to Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who just yesterday told Orszag while he was testifying in front of the House Budget Committee that the facts surrounding the budget are "disturbing." Both men laughed off their less combative introduction this evening.
Other antics in the room pre-the president's arrival: Treasury Secretary Geithner –possibly not too happy the White House could not spell his name correctly on his name card at the table (it was misspelled as Timothy Geitner – without the "h") bucked the system and rearranged the assigned seating at his table, mixing up the name cards. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel also took a role in the seating rearrangement.
As the president and First Lady walked into the room they passed two women who potentially could have become First Lady: Teresa Heinz Kerry and Cindy McCain. Mr. Obama gave Mrs. McCain a kiss on the cheek.
Among those seated at the President’s table were Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), and Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
- Sunlen Miller