Vice President Kamala Harris will host her first social event since taking over as the nation’s second-in-command, having invited every female member of the Senate to join her for dinner at the Naval Observatory on Tuesday night.
There are currently 24 women serving in the U.S. Senate, consisting of 16 Republicans and eight Democrats.
While it’s unclear exactly how many of the senators accepted Harris’ invitation, at least two Republicans will be in attendance: GOP Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told reporters Monday night they both plan to join the vice president for her dinner.
The meeting — which was pushed back due to renovations at the Naval Observatory, the official residence for all vice presidents — comes amid tense negotiations between lawmakers on Capitol Hill and the White House, as the two sides attempt to hash out a satisfactory infrastructure package.
Both Murkowski and Collins are part of a bipartisan group of senators who last week unveiled a tentative “compromise framework” on infrastructure funding. That plan includes a total of $1.2 trillion in infrastructure spending over eight years, with $579 billion in new spending; $974 billion would be spent over the first five years after the bill’s passage.
The current proposal from the White House stands at $1.7 trillion, down from Biden’s original $2.3 trillion proposed infrastructure package, which he lowered during previous negotiations with GOP Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia.
But the new bipartisan proposal may have trouble making it to the Senate floor, much less to President Joe Biden’s desk, as numerous senators have already voiced concerns about the package.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent from Vermont who caucuses with Democrats, told reporters on Monday evening that he opposes the proposal and will not vote for it, as the $1.2 trillion addresses only core infrastructure needs and does not focus on climate change.
"I wouldn't vote for it," Sen. Sanders said of the bipartisan proposal. "The bottom line is there are needs facing this country. Now is the time to address those needs and it has to be paid for in a progressive way given the fact that we have massive income, wealth inequality in America."
Meanwhile, Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., is opposed to any package that proposes a tax increase. The bipartisan bill, while not including any traditional tax hikes, does propose indexing the gas tax to inflation.
“I’m not going to support any tax increases. I’m not going to support increasing the debt,” Sen. Scott said Monday night, clarifying that he sees indexing the gas tax as a tax increase.
Biden has repeatedly said he will not accept an infrastructure package that would raise taxes for people making under $400,000.
And that’s where Tuesday’s senate dinner could come in. With Biden still out of the country on his first overseas trip as president, Harris is the White House’s lead negotiator on the infrastructure issue.
The dinner itself is closed to the press, and the White House did not offer any specifications as to what might be discussed on Tuesday night, meaning infrastructure might be off the menu entirely.
But it’s hardly unusual for a vice president to court senators ahead of a crucial vote, or to curry favor during negotiations.
During his tenure, then-Vice President Mike Pence hosted a coalition of Republican senators for dinner ahead of a key vote on a package that would cut taxes in 2017. Guests at the dinner included then-Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., both of whom had voiced concerns about the potential for the bill to raise the national debt.
Both Flake and Lankford ultimately voted in favor of the tax cuts during a vote two days later, after numerous changes and additions to the legislation had been made.
Biden, who spent over three decades in the Senate before serving as vice president under Barack Obama, was well-known for hosting numerous events at Number One Observatory Circle — although his parties were often geared more towards family and friends than political figures.
Biden also surprised his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, in 2010 with a plaque in the home’s back yard inscribed with the words, “Joe Loves Jill.”