March 6th, 2013
06:03 PM ET
2 years ago

Haute cuisine for Obama and GOP senators

(CNN) – So what was on the menu for Wednesday night's dinner between President Barack Obama and a group of Republican senators?

More importantly, who picked up the tab?

In a rare social outing, the president dined with 12 GOP senators, including some of his harshest critics, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

The venue of choice was the Jefferson Hotel, just blocks from the White House. The restaurant at the hotel is called Plume, a très cher eatery with a prix fixe menu of $85 per person, plus gratuity and tax (about $106 per head). And that doesn't include beverages.

Obama and his guests ordered from a reduced version of the menu by executive chef Chris Jakubiec, according to Meaghan Donohoe, who works for a public relations that represents the Jefferson Hotel.

While it's not clear which entrees they were served, the full menu includes Moulard Duck Breast, Roasted Striped Bass and Colorado Lamb Acai among its options.

"It is our understanding that it was their request to meet in a place that is very intimate, comfortable, and accessible," Donohoe said. "And it's such a familiar stomping ground for Obama as it was a key place for his fundraisers during his campaign."

As for who paid, the White House said the president personally picked up the check.

READ MORE: Obama and Republicans set to meet in the next week

The other senators invited to the dinner include Bob Corker of Tennessee, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Dan Coats of Indiana, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Mike Johanns of Nebraska, Pat Toomey Pennsylvania, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, and John Hoeven of North Dakota.

Asked by a reporter how the dinner went, McCain said "just fine" and gave a thumbs-up.

Another GOP senator, who asked not to be named because it was a private event, described it as a "very positive meeting" that focused on the debt and deficit. The senator also used the words "interactive," "respectful," and "sober" to describe the gathering, adding that it was even jovial at times.

The senator said that Republicans who are "overly skeptical saw a sincerity in (Obama)" they had not been exposed to before, and in return, Obama saw a sincerity among Republicans he may not have recognized before, as well.

"It gave a positive foundation to both sides around a very big issue," the GOP senator said, but still cautioned it is just the beginning and it's still unclear "how you get from here to there" on the deficit.

Hoeven, while talking to reporters after the dinner, also said it was a "good meeting."

"The discussion included not only sequester, the budget, but really where we really focused was how do we bring people together in bipartisan way to address debt and deficit. That means tax reform," he said. "That means entitlement reform that protects and preserves social security, Medicare, but truly addresses debt and deficit."

Another senator who asked not to be named said Republicans got into some detail on each subject, especially tax reform and Medicare. The senator said they were all candid about ideas, and what could be considered “challenges” within each party.

According to this senator, one Republican told the president that if he really wants to do tax reform in a way that attracts fiscal conservatives, he should entertain the idea of throwing out the tax code and revamping it and “do something dramatic."

Obama, the senator said, reacted “openly" to that and other ideas.

Also of note, the senator said wine was poured but there were “not copious amounts of drinking.” In fact, the president drank iced tea, and other senators did, as well.

Later Wednesday night, Johnson lauded the dinner as “a genuine, sincere, open discussion on the fiscal problems facing this nation.”

Speaking from the Senate floor, to which he had just returned in order to participate in a filibuster over Obama’s nomination of John Brennan for CIA director, Johnson said that at the dinner there was “a pretty strong sense once again that there's a great deal of sincerity, a great deal of desire, to roll up our shirt sleeves, put down partisan bickering, put down partisan differences, work together to really solve this problem.”

“I think there's got to be a realization that neither side's going away. If we start solving these problems, we have got to start working together,” Johnson said shortly after midnight as the filibuster approached its 13th hour.

– CNN's Jim Acosta, Adam Aigner-Treworgy, Dana Bash, and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


Filed under: President Obama • Republicans • Washington D.C.
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. goblackhawks

    Why is Obama going out to dinner .. The White House has top Chefs in the White House .. Mr President here is a way to save money ... Stay in the White House .. we are already paying for the Chef's salary. Instead of flying all over the country Mr Environmentalist use the Airwaves ... TV the internet ... no flying unless it is something important (not bashing the other side) for at least 1 month that would save jet fuel and the cost of your protection outside of the White House ... and put the tours back in DC those are volunteers that do the tours ... it is the PEOPLE's HOUSE ..

    March 6, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  2. tykl

    Perfect timing to get together with Republicans. It's like buying a fire sprinkler system for your house once it's burnt down. Maybe o could have gotten off his lazy butt and did his job instead of spending millions in tax-payers money to get a golf lesson from Tiger (a man he would have never met if he wasn't whoring his celebrity president status). This man is the height of incompetence and arrogance. The maddening part is he needs to do nothing to justify his failures because there are 51% of the voting electorate who will make up his excuses for him and try and write revisionist history. I'm out – good luck with your failure of a president.

    March 6, 2013 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  3. sunny star

    Taxpayers will be picking up the check...duh! No wonder your ratings stink.

    March 6, 2013 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  4. Bill

    Who takes the check? Who always takes the check? The taxpayer, of course.

    March 6, 2013 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  5. Woman In California

    While it's not clear which entrees they'll be served, the full menu includes Moulard Duck Breast, Roasted Striped Bass and Colorado Lamb Acai among its options.

    --–

    This menu says it all. Washington is a disgrace.

    March 6, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  6. Ed1

    We the tax payers are picking up the bill and Obama will be eating CROW and he will tell no more lies yea right.

    March 6, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  7. Jay

    CNN, can't you find anything at all to report about?

    March 6, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  8. Guest 1

    The President personally picked up the check.....and very quickly handed it off to the taxpayers !!!...hahahahaha

    March 6, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  9. reply

    Who is going to pay–of course the taxpayers.

    March 6, 2013 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  10. Marie

    Sounds like a nice dinner... I hope something was accomplished and that I'm as a taxpayer not paying for this dinner, because does the White House pay for its own dinners? Of course the WH picked up the tabs, they invited the senators. And while John McCain may be a harsh critic, he is very fair.

    March 6, 2013 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  11. Dont matter

    Even though the President picked up the tab, the right will still find something to be negative about I am certain

    March 6, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  12. Truth

    Who picked up the tab? Why, we did of course, tax paying Americans. Note I said tax paying....not the originally believed to be 47% (now obvious those on free handouts and not paying in a dime are about 51%, not 47%). We are now paying for a large portion of America (50% or above) to even survive, since they cannot do so on their own. They can, probably, they just choose not to, since the option to be a lazy deadbeat welfare recipient is there.
    They seem more than able bodied and fully capable of working whenever the food stamps run out and they riot, or when the latest pair of $200 sneakers come out.

    March 6, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  13. SeeThruIt2

    Interesting choice of locations during the sequester.

    Was it the Dem Pres. responsible for an expensive restaurant choice? Or was he obligated to do it to ensure the 12 Republicans would attend?

    Maybe he should have chosen a more expensive setting to entice even more Republicans.

    Voters are fools.to fall for this media manipulation.

    March 6, 2013 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  14. Sam

    Honestly, I wouldn't have minded taxes paying if it meant they accomplished something, anything! This uncompromising divisiveness must stop.

    March 6, 2013 10:16 pm at 10:16 pm |
  15. RealityWatch

    Quiet is kept.... I actually picked up the tab for that dinner. I just try to keep a low profile. Just don't want my name associted with these type of things.

    March 6, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  16. Mike

    If this story is true, this may be the best start of a bipartisan response to our current crisis yet.

    March 6, 2013 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  17. bkgrandma

    The President is trying his best to get done what is best for America..He cares about this country and not just the rich like the republicans do. They have never wanted him to accomplish anything but God Bless him , he keeps trying.
    Thank God he is the POTUS!!!

    March 6, 2013 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  18. ObaWendon

    Lets hope that common sense prevails out of this dinner and discussion. Lord knows we all could use comprimise and positive action coming from our legislators!

    March 6, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  19. Jerry

    No way! They might all be human beings after all? Isn't "socializing" the missing link that veteran politicians from both parties have pointed out for a long time? If face to face human connection is this complicated for professional "communicators" of my generation, I shudder to think of how the social-media-raised generation of politicians will get anything accomplished. They grew up ignoring incoming phone calls, wait for the message, think of a suitable reply, text the answer. No direct conversation required.

    March 6, 2013 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  20. BrightStar

    Let's all hope they went home with indigestion.

    March 6, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  21. Tony Antin

    If it will get them to work together and do something positive for the nation, I would feed them filet mignon three times a day. But, writing seriously, it's about time that the Republicans, who, during his first term, has only one objective: Destroy Obama, should now acknowledge that, like or not, he president for the next four years and work with him to help a country still sorely in need of help. In other word, GOP, get over it.

    March 6, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  22. Kevin

    This is a joke, right? The obscenities of spending that this Administration has been perpetuating, and this is the one you choose to report?

    Enjoy your 5th place ratings position, CNN. You are a hack organization, and the world would be better off without you.

    March 6, 2013 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    If the Repukes had any dignity, they would have footed their own bill. Does anyone for a second think that these fatcats would forego a free anything? LOL

    March 6, 2013 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  24. Pinchshot

    If these Repukes had any dignity they would have paid their own way. Seriously would anyone believe these phonies would not take a free anything? LOL

    March 6, 2013 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  25. TK

    republicans feel entitled and entitled people only want what they believe is rightfully theirs even if they do not work for it.

    March 6, 2013 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
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