March 6th, 2013
06:03 PM ET
10 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?

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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. devin

    The American people of course.

    March 6, 2013 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  2. Steve- Illinois

    The poor waiters found out at the end of the meal, Obama sequestered their tip.

    March 6, 2013 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  3. rasPutin

    So, someone is worried about a $1500 dinner bill, when the government spends $3.6 trillion, gets $2.5 trillion in revenues, leaving an annual deficit of $1,100,000,000,000?

    Get some perspective!!!!

    March 6, 2013 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  4. Robert M

    Good for them! "Reaching across the table" may well require discussions over a good dinner.

    March 6, 2013 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  5. User-301

    The republicans should have not only paid for the dinner but also paid the President for taking his time to sit with this pack of knuckleheads talking about nothing. Time is money and the President really don't have time to waste like this. He would have been better off having lunch with a group of 1st graders. Well in a way, I guess that's what he actually did.

    March 6, 2013 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  6. theapatriot

    We know liberals don't pay taxes, so the republicans, conservatives, and moderate democrats must have paid for it.

    March 6, 2013 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  7. Kid

    Reminds me of the Biblical... "The Last Supper" with Obama as Jesus

    March 6, 2013 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
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