Maryland's senior senator is among a trio of ailing lawmakers who won't be attending today's White House luncheon for members of the Senate Democratic caucus, a White House official announced today.
President Barack Obama has invited the senators, who normally meet for lunch every Tuesday when the Senate is in session, to move their feast down the avenue.
The meal--menu to be announced later--will be held in the State Dining Room. A total of 57 senators are expected to chow down, including independents Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who vote with the Democrats on organizational matters.
Three senators sent their regrets: Sens. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, being treated for brain cancer; 91-year-old Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, hospitalized for infections over the past two months; and Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland, who underwent surgery last week for a broken ankle suffered July 19, according to her office.
Mikulski's spokeswoman said the senator plans to return to work later this week for the confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (who also stumbled and broke her ankle this summer). White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama plans to use the noon gathering to talk with senators about the administration's priorities, including measures to aid the economy and his ambitious plan to overhaul the nation's health care system. Vice President Joe Biden will also attend.
Gibbs described it as "a working lunch."
Also, "it's the President's birthday, and Chuck E. Cheese was booked," the spokesman told reporters.
Obama, who is 48 today, celebrated the occasion over the weekend at the Camp David retreat in the Maryland mountains. Family members and close friends from Hawaii and Chicago gathered for bowling (Obama rolled a 144 game, according to Gibbs), pickup basketball and a long dinner.
Of course, there's nothing like officially marking your big day with dozens of former Senate colleagues--many, if not most, of whom have spent their adult lives fantasizing about becoming president, only to watch a rookie from Illinois go zooming past and win the job.