President Obama has been beating up on Congress for months, but he called a brief truce Wednesday evening to host lawmakers for a picnic at the White House.

The event likely made for some awkward small talk, considering the mix of personalities. For example, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. showed up to mingle a day before the House is expected to hold a contempt vote against him for failure to deliver documents requested in the investigation into Operation “Fast & Furious.”

But Obama, whose criticism of Republicans as obstructionists has become a centerpiece of his campaign, struck a conciliatory tone in his brief remarks.

“We’re thrilled that you have at least one day where you got a chance to be together in Washington and nobody is arguing,” the president said. “So that also just reminds me that for all the political differences that are sometimes expressed in this town, we are first and foremost Americans -- not Democrats or Republicans.”

Earlier in the day, reporters asked White House Press Secretary Jay Carney why it was worth having a picnic considering the strained relations between the executive and legislative branches.

Carney called the picnic an “American tradition,” then added that there would be “six different types of barbecue.”

The lawmakers brought their families, all the more reason to avoid partisan bickering. The Marine Band played, but Obama demurred from performing.

“You don’t have to worry, I will not be singing. We have professionals for that,” bantered Obama, whose performance in January singing an Al Green song at the Apollo Theater went viral online.

Obama thanked the lawmakers and their spouses for their service, noting that First Lady Michelle Obama “reminds me every day how difficult it is to be married to a politician. And the sacrifices that all of you make -- the birthday parties that get missed, or the soccer games that you’re late to, the travel that keeps you away from your loved ones -- all of that obviously is in service of our country, and you guys are serving alongside those of us who hold elective office.”

Obama then offered to take photos with children 12 and under, but said that he couldn’t indulge the adults because the line would be too long.

“So little kids, if you want a picture, I don’t mind. I can’t say no to little kids,” he said. “You bigger folks, you’re just going to get a handshake and maybe a kiss if -- unless you haven’t shaved, in which case -- anyway, everybody have a wonderful time.”