Michelle Obama's Beijing Hotel Was Deemed Too Costly for Biden Trip

Monday, 24 Mar 2014 04:42 PM

By Joe Battaglia

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The anticipated cost of Michelle Obama's trip to China is raising eyebrows after a recent report revealed that similar planned expenses for Vice President Joe Biden were deemed to be cost "prohibitive" on his trip there last year.

The first lady, her daughters Sasha and Malia, her mother, and an entourage of 70 support staff arrived in China on Thursday for a week-long visit that has been labeled part tourism, part soft diplomacy.

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The group has been staying at the 5-star Westin Chaoyang Hotel near the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The Obamas are staying in the hotel's presidential suite, which carries a price tag of about $8,400 per night, according to USA Today.

According to the hotel website, the Jinmao Presidential Suite is 3,445 square feet and includes a kitchen, bar, sauna, jacuzzi, dining table for six, a 50-inch interactive flat-screen television, Bose audio system, a private gym and 24-hour butler service.

Federal Business Opportunities, the government contracting website, released documents last week that indicated the cost of staying at the Westin Chaoyang was deemed too expensive for Biden and his staff, who wound up staying at the St. Regis instead.

That trip cost an estimated $384,479.19, as 1,345 room nights needed to be reserved for advance preparation, lodging, and office space for security, communications and staff.

"Westin Chaoyang — price was prohibitive when compared with St. Regis — otherwise met requirements," the document states. Another hotel, The Grand Hyatt Beijing, was also eliminated because of security concerns. "Westin Choayang expressed interest and was considered. In preliminary price comparisons, the costs were tens of thousands of dollars over the St. Regis. We requested a price reduction but a great cost difference remained."

According to The Weekly Standard, the State Department is supposed to post hotel contracts exceeding $150,000 within 30 days. It is unclear whether Obama's trip will meet that criteria, but it appears highly likely that it will.

This isn't the first trip by the Obamas to draw ire over its cost to taxpayers.

A trip to Africa by the president and first lady in June 2013 drew estimates of as much as $100 million in total costs. Also that month, Michelle Obama's two-day trip to Ireland cost an estimated $5 million. A return trip to Africa for the funeral of Nelson Mandela cost in excess of $11 million.

According to Judicial Watch, a Freedom of Information lawsuit revealed "President Obama incurred $7,396,531.20 in flight expenses alone for his 2013 vacations to Hawaii and Martha's Vineyard and his trip to California to appear on the Jay Leno show."

"It's very rare that I have the opportunity to travel outside of the United States, and it's even more rare to have the opportunity to travel with three generations -- with my daughters, and with my mother," Michelle Obama said, Agence France-Presse reports.

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