Amid spending cuts, Obama and GOP dine in style (but he pays)

Olivier Knox
The Ticket

UPDATE: The president picked up the tab!

Painful spending cuts may have led the White House to halt public tours, but President Barack Obama and Republican senators may need to loosen their belts, not tighten them, after their peacemaking dinner at superswank Plume restaurant on Wednesday.

How swank? The eatery features a menu with a $1,776—per person—price tag, excluding tax and tip. However, it was unclear how much was actually spent.

After the meal, which ran about two hours and twenty minutes, the White House let it be known that Obama "paid for the dinner out of his own pocket," according to a pool report from Susan Crabtree of the Washington Times.

“The President greatly enjoyed the dinner and had a good exchange of ideas with the Senators,” a senior administration official told Crabtree.

Per the White House via Crabtree, the other attendees were:

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee
Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire
Senator John McCain of Arizona
Senator Dan Coats of Indiana
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma
Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina
Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska
Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania
Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin
Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota
Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia

Obama had invited the GOP lawmakers to the tony Jefferson Hotel, home to Plume restaurant, in a bid to break the partisan logjam and forge a deficit-cutting deal. Plume is widely considered among D.C.'s finest.

The group “will be dining from the Plume menu," a hotel source told Yahoo News before the get-together began.

That hinted that they would not be ordering the actual "1776" menu, or even the more-modest-but-still-lavish $85 menu — one dollar for every billion of the $85 billion in cuts slated to go into effect this year.

So what makes the $1,776 menu so special?

“It pairs the evening's ever-changing tasting menu with wines that date, collectively, over the past 237 years,” according to hotel spokeswoman Meaghan Donohoe.

“For instance, this could include a 20-year-old Champagne, grand cru white Burgundy, a Bordeaux from one of the five first growths, and a glass of Madeira from 1790,” she said.