White House cancels annual picnic with lawmakers amid Syria crisis
WASHINGTON - The White House said Wednesday it had canceled its summer picnic for members of Congress and their families - an annual opportunity for the president and lawmakers to set aside partisan sniping in favor of music and food.

The decision was made quietly last week as the administration was dealing with how it would respond to a chemical weapons attack in Syria. At the time it looked like Congress would be occupied with debating whether to approve President Barack Obama's plan for military strikes.

Traditionally held by presidents in June as a lighthearted way to thank lawmakers for their public service, this year's picnic was postponed to September when the calendar became too cluttered with Obama's trips to the G8 summit in Northern Ireland and a week-long visit to Africa.

"The president and Mrs. Obama look forward to welcoming members of Congress and their immediate families at the Congressional Holiday Ball in December," a White House aide said.

During the past two weeks, Obama and his top officials have had dozens of meetings with lawmakers over the response to the Syrian crisis, both at the White House and on Capitol Hill.
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