Washington, DC--With the Congressional Date Auction only weeks away, tensions flared at the latest round of planning committee meetings. The annual event benefits the Make-a-Wish Foundation and is widely considered a lightning rod in this year’s charged political climate.
“We simply cannot afford an elaborate catwalk like we’ve had in years past,” said Speaker John A. Boehner, who went for $600 in last year’s date auction.
Already, Congressional Democrats have agreed to some cost-cutting measures. “Look, if we’re not going to have a DJ, they need to meet us half way,” said Senate Majority leader Harry Reid who went for $500 at last year’s auction and took his date to a Washington Capitals game.
However, Democrats drew a line in the sand over the souvenir t-shirt giveaway.
“Our friends across the aisle are refusing to raise any revenue by charging admission, even to the wealthiest patrons,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), the House minority whip and last year’s MC. “Even a tip jar at the door could bring in enough revenue to purchase cotton t’s. We’re not asking for American Apparel here.”
Despite some concessions, Republicans remain skeptical of an agreement. “The Democrats simply don’t get it,” Boehnner said. “The American people are tired of t-shirt giveaways. It’s time to say, ‘Hey if you want a congressional t-shirt, you’re gonna have to pay a larger share of it.’”
The opposition was so intense that President Obama was called in to mediate. Democratic congressional leaders were reportedly furious over President Obama’s willingness to substitute a less-expensive souvenir mug for a party favor. Even that concession wasn’t enough to reach a deal.
“The American people are looking to their leaders to make hard compromises, but we still need to invest in the party favors that make this such a great event,” Obama said.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the auction, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned of disastrous consequences if the planning committee fails to meet its deadline. “We put a $500 non-refundable deposit to hold the Spy Museum Banquet Hall,” Geithner said. “We don’t know how donors will react if we lose the venue we promised, and that’s not a prospect anybody wants to see.”