President Barack Obama used Monday night’s White House dinner with scores of lawmakers to reiterate a call for unity in the wake of the death of Osama bin Laden.
Obama told the crowd that Sunday’s major announcement about the U.S. raid that killed the al-Qaida leader in Pakistan “reminded again that there is a pride in what this nation stands for, and what we can achieve, that runs far deeper than party, far deeper than politics.”
The dinner in the East Room with Congressional leaders from both parties, committee chairmen and ranking members, Cabinet members, and administration officials — plus their guests — was billed as a relaxed social gathering aimed at strengthening relations between the White House and Capitol Hill.
It was held the same day that lawmakers returned to work from a two-week recess to resume grappling with raising the nation’s debt limit. Without specifically mentioning any policy issue, Obama said the news of bin Laden’s death should underscore the need for comity in the coming months.
Obama referenced other unifying moments in the nation’s recent past, including a shooting in Arizona that critically injured Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) in January. That attack, which killed six people, inspired lawmakers to abandon the tradition of partisan seating at the State of the Union address that followed a few weeks later.
“I also know there have been several moments like this during the course of this year that have brought us together as an American family, whether it was the tragedy in Tucson or, most recently, our unified response to the terrible storms that have taken place in the South,” Obama said, referring to tornadoes that killed more than 300 last week. “Last night was one of those moments. And so tonight, it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face.”
Bin Laden was the founder and leader of al-Qaida, the terrorist organization of Islamic extremists that killed nearly 3,000 people in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Obama is scheduled to travel to New York on Thursday to meet with families touched by the Sept. 11 attacks and to visit the site of the World Trade Center, White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer wrote on Twitter on Monday night.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.