Not all the costs are in, but so far Michelle Obama's soft-sell public relations tour — little more than a vacation, some say — to China includes her stay at a hotel that charges $8,400 a night.
The first lady is staying at the presidential suite in the 5-star Westin Hotel at Chaoyang, located near the U.S. Embassy, USA Today reported. That's the same hotel that was deemed as too expensive for vice president Joe Biden when he made the trip in December, The Daily Caller reported.
Documents from the Federal Business Opportunities reported by the Weekly Standard revealed that Mr. Biden was pressed to find cheaper digs during his visit. The memo: "Westin Chaoyang — price was prohibitive when compared with St. Regis — otherwise met requirements."
The memo also explained: "Westin Choayang expressed interest [in serving Mr. Biden] 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."
So Mr. Biden instead took over the St. Regis Hotel — which ultimately cost $384,479 for 213 hotel rooms, The Daily Caller reported.
Mrs. Obama is reportedly staying at the Westin with her daughters and mother. It's not clear if taxpayers are paying full-price for the rooms.
The first lady is on a weeklong trip to the region for what the White House described as a "person-to-person" soft diplomatic tour — that doesn't include any members of the press but is still paid by taxpayers.
She remarked on her first "wonderful" day in the capital city: "We had an opportunity to meet with students. I tried my hand at ping pong — not so good. And our visit to the Forbidden City is one that we will never forget. Being able to see my mother, who doesn't get to travel internationally often, walk throughout that ancient city, and to see her excitement and wonder, is a moment that I will treasure forever," USA Today reported.
Her trip has sparked some backlash by some who wonder why she won't answer media questions, but is still traveling on the taxpayer dime.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for communications, clarified that Mrs. Obama's trip simply "sends a message that the relationship between the United States and China is not just between leaders — it's a relationship between peoples."
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