NotedDC — What’s on the menu for Biden’s first state dinner

Lobster, caviar and sparkling wine will be flowing at the White House on Thursday night as President Biden and first lady Jill Biden host French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, for the Biden administration’s first state dinner.

More than 300 guests are expected to attend the event, which will be held under a heated pavilion on the White House South Lawn. It’s the first U.S.-hosted state dinner since 2019, after which events were rolled back due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The red, white and blue-themed dinner is heavy on symbolism honoring the long-standing relationship between the U.S. and its oldest ally. Decor will include roses and irises, the national flowers of the United States and France, respectively.

Musician Jon Batiste, a Louisiana native, will perform during the dinner.

🧀  ON THE MENU: France may be famous for cheese, but guests at the White House event will be served a trio of artisan cheeses from the United States: Rogue Creamery’s Rogue River Blue from Grant Pass, Ore.; Cypress Grove’s Humboldt Fog goat cheese from Arcata, Calif.; and Deer Creek cheddar from Sheboygan, Wis.

🍷  ON TAP: Guests will have their choice of a white wine, red wine or sparkling rose — all from California.

💽  GIFTS GALORE: As is tradition, the two presidents exchanged gifts ahead of the dinner. Macron gifted Biden a vinyl and CD of the original soundtrack to French filmmaker Claude Lelouch‘s 1966 film “Un Homme et une Femme” — the film that the Bidens watched on their first date. He also gifted him a sweater, a watch and cup. Biden gifted Macron a custom vinyl record collection of great American musicians and an archival print of Thomas Edison’s 1877 patent of the American Phonograph.

🇷🇺 GEOPOLITICAL CONTEXT: Macron acknowledged the backdrop to the meeting during brief remarks upon his arrival at the White House, noting the “challenging times globally and with the war in Ukraine launched by Russia.”

“Obviously, it will be the first topic of discussion for both of us,” he said.

The meeting also comes amid economic tension between the countries over the Inflation Reduction Act and U.S. interference last year in a deal that ultimately cost France a multi-billion defense contract.

ELSEWHERE: The visit prompted protests outside the gates of the White House from activists seeking to draw attention to climate change and World AIDS Day.

This is NotedDC, looking at the politics, policy and people behind the stories in Washington. We’re The Hill’s Liz Crisp and Amée LaTour. Want a copy of this newsletter in your inbox each week? Sign up here or in the box below.

Thank you for signing up!

Subscribe to more newsletters here

The latest in politics and policy. Direct to your inbox. Sign up for the NotedDC newsletter


Mixed bag for House GOP leaders, Freedom Caucus

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)

TENSIONS between the conservative House Freedom Caucus and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) were on full display during the House Republican conference’s two rounds of rules amendment voting.

The process wrapped up Wednesday after an initial round of voting on Nov. 16. While the rules amendments were subject to conference-wide votes, some may seek to pin the outcome on McCarthy, who will need majority support from the full House in January to claim the speakership.

The big-ticket item Wednesday was a proposed earmark ban, which Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif) put forward. Nearly three-quarters of the GOP conference voted against reinstating the ban. Such a ban was in effect for a decade before earmarks were allowed again in the current Congress (with some modifications).

McClintock is not a Freedom Caucus member, though Roll Call reported, “House Freedom Caucus Chairman Scott Perry, R-Pa., said in a brief interview Wednesday ahead of the conference vote that scrapping earmarks would be a ‘pretty important marker’ as conservatives weigh whether to lend McCarthy their support for speaker in a floor election Jan. 3.”

Since the summer, the caucus has pushed for rules changes that it said would shift power to individual members and away from leadership.

Some Freedom Caucus member amendments passed Wednesday, Punchbowl reported, including an amendment from Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) to require that members receive five days’ notice before a bill or resolution is considered under suspension of the rules unless it’s put to a recorded vote.

The conference also passed an amendment from Perry requiring a meeting of the conference if at least 50 members petition for one before considering major legislation.

Changes last month: Nov. 16 was a similarly mixed bag for the Freedom Caucus and leadership.

The Hill’s Emily Brooks reported at the time, “The spirit of a Freedom Caucus request to increase the number of regional representatives on the House GOP steering committee, the body of around 30 members that control committee assignments and chairmanships, is addressed in new regional maps.”

Republicans approved a new steering map last month, which Punchbowl’s Jake Sherman called “a big win for conservatives because it significantly decreases the power of the leadership when it comes to determining the composition of committees.”

The conference, however, did not get behind a major Freedom Caucus push in November to allow any Republican representative to force a vote on recalling the Speaker, instead passing an amendment stating a majority of Republicans must back such a motion. The conference also rejected an amendment Perry proposed to put committees in charge of selecting their chairs. 

New leaders, positions emerge from Dem elections

In the last two days, Democrats have elected new members to their leadership team, created new positions and changed the way they’ll choose the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) chair.

Thursday morning, Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.) — who launched a last-minute challenge to Jim Clyburn (S.C.) for the role of assistant Democratic leader, the No. 4 position — withdrew his bid, meaning Clyburn won the position unopposed.

New leaders: Clyburn, currently Democratic whip, along with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), stepped away from the top three Democratic spots, opening them up to a new generation. Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (N.Y.), Katherine Clark (Mass.) and Pete Aguilar (Calif.) will be the highest-ranking Democrats next year.

Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.) was chosen as the next Democratic Caucus vice chair to assist Caucus chair Aguilar.

Democrats also voted to create the position of Democratic Policy and Communications Committee (DPCC) chair and selected Joe Neguse (Colo.), who was unopposed. The committee has had four co-chairs for the current Congress, for which the “chair of chairs” position was eliminated.

Neguse will oversee the newly elected DPCC co-chairs: Reps. Veronica Escobar (Texas), Dean Phillips (Minn.), and Lauren Underwood (Ill.).

A complicated shuffling: Our colleague Mike Lillis wrote, “Clyburn’s bid forced Aguilar, who had signaled his intent to seek the assistant leader spot, to go after the caucus chairmanship instead. That had a significant impact on Rep. Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), who had already announced his candidacy for caucus chair but was forced to alter course and pursue the top spot on the Democrats’ messaging panel — a small promotion for Neguse, but not the high-profile caucus chair position he was after.”

New leadership position: Democrats also voted Wednesday to create the position of battleground representative. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (Va.) and Matt Cartwright (Pa.) are running. Battleground representatives are expected to vote Tuesday.

DCCC chair selection: The caucus also voted to put the Democratic leader in charge of nominating the chair of the DCCC, House Democrats’ campaign arm, with the caucus then voting on whether to approve. If at least five members nominate someone else, that person can challenge Jeffries’s pick. 

Georgia Senate race ramps up in final days

Early voting in Georgia
Early voting in Georgia

JUST FIVE DAYS are left before a winner will be determined in Georgia’s Senate race, the final Senate battle that has yet to be called this year.  And there’s no shortage of developments in the final stretch.

A new poll from Emerson College Polling and The Hill released Thursday shows Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) with a narrow 2-point lead over GOP rival Herschel Walker — within the margin of error — and with 4 percent still saying they are undecided.

Here are some of the latest developments:

  • Duncan dodges: Count Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R) among voters who couldn’t pick between the two candidates. Duncan said in an interview with CNN he waited an hour in line to early vote but didn’t end up picking either. “I had two candidates that I just couldn’t find anything that made sense for me to put my vote behind, and so I walked out of that ballot box showing up to vote but not voting for either one of them,” Duncan said Wednesday.

  • Obama factor: Former first lady Michelle Obama has recorded two campaign messages for Warnock. Former President Obama, meanwhile, is campaigning in person in Georgia on Thursday.

  • Kemp lends a hand: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), who sailed to reelection last month, cut a recent ad in support of Walker.

  • Walker’s fumbles: Amid a runoff that lasts just four weeks, Walker spent five days off the campaign trail around the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. That came as CNN reported on uncovered audio from earlier this year of Walker repeatedly saying he was residing in Texas, even after launching his bid.

    The former football star has been plagued by allegations from ex-partners about mistreatment that the Warnock team has put into brutal attack ads. Reports also emerged that Walker’s team had started blocking reporters from access to the candidate.

    “New rule at Herschel Walker events: journalists can’t get within 20 feet of Walker afterward,” Axios reporter Emma Hurt tweeted Wednesday, with a photo of barricades. “It would seem this is to prevent journalists from shouting questions.”

  • Early voting tops 1 million: More than 1 million people have already cast their ballots in the race. Multiple days this week set single-day records. Republicans and Democrats have both been aggressively courting early voters this round. 

Jan. 6 panel holds final witness meetings

Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) speaks to reporters following a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on US Capitol on Tuesday, July 27, 2021.
Reps. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) speaks to reporters following a hearing of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on US Capitol on Tuesday, July 27, 2021.

The House panel that has spent months investigating the activities around the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack has conducted its final interview — a significant moment as Democrats prepare to hand control of the chamber over to the GOP.

“There’s information that we have discovered, uncovered, that we’ll have to make a decision as to what we do with it. Do we make criminal referrals with some of it? Do we make ethical referrals?” select committee Chair Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) told reporters this week.

What’s next: The committee members’ work isn’t yet complete, as a final report of their findings still needs to be collected into a final draft. Members have signaled they plan to wrap up by the end of the year.

Reaction from the incoming GOP majority: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who the caucus has nominated for Speaker when the full House votes in January, has already sent off a warning letter to Thompson indicating that Republicans plan to investigate the panel’s work.

“It is imperative that all information collected be preserved not just for institutional prerogatives but for transparency to the American people,” he wrote. “The official Congressional Records do not belong to you or any member, but to the American people.”

Read more from The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch

BRIEFLY

  • President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan remains paused after a federal appeals court decision Wednesday, which also ordered consideration of the administration’s full appeal to be expedited.

  • Members of Maine’s congressional delegation comment on a lobster dispute, with the state dinner menu as a jumping-off point.

  • The Hill’s Emily Brooks breaks down the opposition to Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) speakership bid, previewing a potential floor showdown in January. 

NUMBER TO KNOW

1.5 million 

The number of people globally who were diagnosed with HIV in 2021, according to the most recent data from the WHO. Thursday marks World AIDS Day. 

QUOTABLE

“It was itchy.” – Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) on shaving his short-lived beard.

ONE MORE THING

Night on the town

@POTUS/Twitter
@POTUS/Twitter

It’s no secret President Biden is a huge fan of ice cream — from the campaign trail to casual stops while on official business, you can generally expect to see him grabbing a cone of chocolate chip somewhere along the way.

During a dinner Wednesday with first lady Jill BidenPresident Macron and French first lady Brigitte Macron, Biden was spotted digging into a bowl of cold dessert at Georgetown staple Fiola Mare (where three scoops of “sorbetto & gelato” goes for $16).

One of the nuggets tucked into a Vogue exclusive with first granddaughter Naomi Biden ahead of her recent White House wedding was that the president’s favorite ice cream is Graeter’s chocolate chip.

“He used to be a Breyers guy all the way but we’ve gotten him to upgrade to Graeter’s,” Naomi Biden told Vogue.

The menu for the official state dinner this week at the White House also features a fancier take on the frozen treat: “creme fraiche ice cream.”

Thanks for reading! Please consider sharing with a friend to sign up: thehill.com/noted.

Miss yesterday’s issue? Catch up here.

We’ll see you next week.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.