Senator Burr, others dine with President Obama


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(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.

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.”


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