Ah, the annual congressional picnic at the White House. A chance for lawmakers and the president to put partisan bickering aside for a night of barbecue, family fun and carefree hobnobbing.
Not so fast.
The White House has postponed this year’s rite of summer.
“The White House Congressional Picnic for Members of Congress and their families will not take place in June this year,” read an email from the White House Office of Legislative affairs to members of Congress. “We are hopeful that we will be able to reschedule this event for September.”
The White House says the decision was based on the president’s packed schedule and not budget cuts, which have forced the White House to cancel public tours of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“[It] had to do with the president’s schedule and the fact that he is, as you know, taking several overseas trips in June, and that necessitated trying to postpone this,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters today.
The picnic gives lawmakers and their families a chance to mingle informally and take pictures with the president and first lady.
“We’re thrilled that you have at least one day where you got a chance to be together in Washington and nobody is arguing,” Obama told lawmakers and their families at last year’s picnic. “For all the political differences that are sometimes expressed in this town, we are first and foremost Americans – not Democrats or Republicans.”
The event, however, can also create awkward social run-ins between political opponents and does not necessarily afford the president much benevolence on Capitol Hill.
“When I’m over here at the congressional picnic and folks are coming up and taking pictures with their family, I promise you, Michelle and I are very nice to them and we have a wonderful time,” Obama told reporters at a news conference in January.
“But it doesn’t prevent them from going onto the floor of the House and blasting me for being a big-spending socialist.”