Hillary Clinton and top congressional Republicans Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy will join President Biden on Thursday for a small dinner party with visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
It’s unclear if Clinton will speak to reporters during her return to the White House — as high-profile visitors sometimes do on the driveway. The meal in the State Dining Room is closed to reporters.
Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton, is not on the 25-person guest list — nor are the top Democrats in Congress.
As first lady, Clinton lived in the executive mansion for eight years, but failed to get elected herself in 2008, when she was narrowly defeated by Barack Obama in the Democratic primary, and then in 2016 when Donald Trump scored an upset win.
It’s unclear why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are not attending when their Republican counterparts are.
McConnell (R-Ky), the Senate minority leader, and McCarthy (R-Calif.), the House minority leader, are expected to attend despite vowing resistance to Biden’s legislative agenda, including a $3.5 trillion bill announced this week that would raise taxes to finance programs that didn’t make the cut into a pending $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill.
McCarthy met with former President Trump on Thursday at his golf resort in Bedminster, NJ.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, a Republican who endorsed Biden last year, and current Secretary of State Tony Blinken are attending the dinner with Merkel, as are Vice President Kamala Harris, her husband Doug Emhoff and first lady Jill Biden.
Rep. Greg Meeks (D-NY), will attend as chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy, a former US ambassador to Germany, also was invited.
White House officials strictly controlled reporter access to Biden’s late-afternoon joint press conference with Merkel in the White House East Room.
Press officers selected which reporters were allowed to attend the event, despite the fact that most pandemic restrictions have ended at the White House. Typically, all journalists who cover the White House are able to attend joint press conferences with visiting world leaders.
In emails to reporters, the White House press office cited “spacing constraints” for excluding reporters from the press conference — despite the fact that the East Room is larger than the 49-seat White House briefing room, where all journalists interested in attending were allowed to fill seats and stand in aisles earlier on Thursday.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for clarification on the spacing constraints and the mechanism for selecting journalists to attend the press conference.
Merkel’s visit to the White House drew relatively sedate news coverage. The long-time German chancellor, in power since 2005, says she won’t seek another term in 2021.
As COVID-19 pandemic restriction ease, Biden also has hosted outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and retiring Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.