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Monday, March 20, 2023

The Congress will host an annual National Prayer Breakfast

The National Prayer Breakfast, one of Washington’s most visible and traditional religious and political gatherings, will no longer be hosted by the private church group that has hosted the event for decades. Instead, lawmakers decided to take over the organization of the prayer breakfast, fearing the event would cause too many mixed feelings in many people.

This year’s Thursday breakfast will be hosted by the new National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, led by former Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat from Arkansas.

Senator Chris Koons, a permanent member and chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee, said the decision was due, in part, to members of Congress not knowing important details about breakfast in recent years.

Koons, a Democrat from Delaware, said he and Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, vice-chairman of the committee, had previously debated who had been invited and how the money had been raised.

“[Annual Event] lasts several days, thousands of people participate, it is a very large and somewhat complex organization, Koons said in an interview. “Questions have been raised about our ability as members of Congress to say that we know exactly how it was organized, who was invited, how it was funded. Many of us who were in leadership positions don’t could not answer these questions.

The event came under fire in 2018 when Maria Butina, a Russian agent, pleaded guilty to conspiring to infiltrate and then influence conservative American political groups. According to court documents, she attended two breakfasts in hopes of building informal ties between Russian and American officials and advancing Russian interests.

This year, lawmakers decided to resume organizing the prayer breakfast.

Pryor, president of the new foundation, said the suspension of the event by COVID-19 has given members of Congress an opportunity to reevaluate the importance of breakfast and return to its roots – a change that, according to him, has been discussed for years.

Pryor said members of Congress, the president, vice president and other administration officials, along with their guests, have been invited to a prayer breakfast to be held Thursday at the Capitol Visitor Center. He expects 200 to 300 people to attend the breakfast, far fewer than in previous years.

Pryor said he hoped the smaller event would be more like social gatherings to network and temporarily bridge political differences.

The Presidential Prayer Breakfast is the culmination of a multi-day event for 70 years. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to attend this event in February 1953, and every president has spoken at the meeting since.

President Joe Biden, who has spoken at breakfast for the past two years, is about to do it again. In 2021, he spoke from the White House during a virtual breakfast a month after the building was attacked by supporters of former President Donald Trump determined to block insurance of the 2020 election.

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