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Impeachment talk doesn’t stop both parties from attending Biden picnic

Annual event comes as president’s critics are again talking of impeachment

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, right, attend the annual congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients, right, attend the annual congressional picnic on the South Lawn of the White House on Tuesday. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

More talk of impeachment on Capitol Hill didn’t keep President Joe Biden from welcoming Republicans to the congressional picnic Tuesday evening.

There was no shortage of members from both sides of the aisle making the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to the South Lawn of the White House, from Republican Reps. Aaron Bean of Florida, Bill Huizenga of Michigan and Don Bacon of Nebraska to more Democrats than one might be able to count.

The Senate had robust bipartisan representation as well, from as far to the left as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to Republicans Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky.

When Biden in brief remarks shouted out to former House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., Hoyer was off to the side of the tables covered with blue and white checkered tablecloths. He was near one of the stations serving beverages, which First Lady Jill Biden said was “the beer.”

Speaking to a crowd more intimately familiar with the Capitol’s hallways and hideaways than most audiences he addresses, Biden lamented that there’s no senators-only dining room like he said there was when he served there.

“There’s a dining room and a senator can take a guest in the larger dining room, but there’s no private dining room,” Biden said.

Attendees at the traditionally bipartisan event dined on chicken salad sandwiches, assorted salads and pulled pork sandwiches (with a vinegar-based slaw). And, as anyone who has seen Biden out on the campaign trail might suspect: ice cream, abundant ice cream.

The only real partisan blip came when the president welcomed House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and expressed optimism that the New York Democrat would be the next speaker and called Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “the best speaker in American history.”

While the picnic was open to the press, the invitees and the people covering them were kept well apart, unless members chose to come closer to the pen, as Rep Lauren Underwood, D-Ill., did.

“I think that events like this are an exciting opportunity to come together as members of Congress, not as Democrats or Republicans, but just as House and Senate colleagues with our families to have a nice time together,” Underwood said, comparing the picnic to the “neighborhood block parties” common in her home district in Illinois.

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