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Obama to host bipartisan Super Bowl party

Though his hometown Bears aren't playing, the president has invited lawmakers from both parties to watch the Packers take on the Steelers at the White House.

February 03, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — President Obama had hoped to be in Dallas this weekend, rooting on his Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLV. But with his hometown team knocked out of the playoffs, he's settling for a viewing party at home with a dose of star power, with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony headlining a White House gathering Sunday.

This will be the third year Obama has hosted a Super Bowl party, and the biggest so far with more than 100 people having accepted invitations. Guests will watch the game between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the State Floor of the White House, rather than in the White House theater as in past years.

It started in 2009 as a way for lawmakers of both parties to mingle in an informal way, part of Obama's pledge to change the tone of Washington. According to the White House, Pennsylvania Sens. Pat Toomey (R) and Bob Casey (D), and Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wisc.), who represents Green Bay, will attend this year with their families. Toomey and Ribble were just elected in November.

Also from Wisconsin, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz will come to Washington to watch the game.

Several members of the Cabinet, including Atty. Gen. Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Trade Representative Ron Kirk and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, will also join White House staff, families and friends for the event.

Lopez and Anthony aren't strangers at the White House, having headlined a Fiesta Latina event there in October 2009.

Obama appeared to still be sore about the Bears' loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship game, joking with a Pennsylvania audience Thursday about the Bears joining the state's other team, the Philadelphia Eagles, in watching the big game from home.

"Last week, I visited a small town in Wisconsin that was right next to Green Bay," he said. "So in the spirit of fairness, I've come to Pennsylvania -- not too far from the center of Steeler nation -- to wish Steelers fans good luck in the Super Bowl too."

He noted that he appointed one of the Steelers' owners, Dan Rooney, as ambassador to Ireland. But he has pledged to remain neutral in the game, after having picked the Bears two weeks earlier.

Also Sunday, Obama will sit down for an interview with Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, which will air during Fox's pregame show.

mmemoli@tribune.com

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