So it was a rarity on Monday to see Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) chatting it up with Jimmy Carter, the 39th president, who was sitting at his table; or Bill Clinton shaking the hand of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the vice presidential candidate whom he attacked repeatedly on the campaign trail; or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — the longtime nemesis of the president — presenting the Obamas with a crystal vase engraved with a hand-carved sketch of the White House.
During his previous Inauguration, the feeling was much different in the Capitol: Democrats dominated both chambers of Congress. This time, the House is controlled by Republicans, who view the president as having little regard for their concerns. But after the Monday lunch, Republicans were quick to praise the president, and Democrats saw a new man stepping into a second term.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, said it was the first such gathering he attended. “It was nice,” Hensarling said. “You kind of wish sometimes the spirit of friendship and [bipartisanship] could last a little bit beyond the pomp and circumstance.”…
“I enjoyed the lunch; it was great,” Ryan said later. “I liked the bison.”