President Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House today for the first time since Democrats took a drubbing at the polls on Tuesday. He renewed a pledge for bipartisanship to end legislative gridlock.
The president, who met with 13 leaders from both parties and both chambers, said he was “hearing and sharing” ideas on improving the economy.
He said that the American people would “like to see more cooperation” between the White House and Congress, adding, “I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen.
“I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they’re Democratic or Republican — I’m going to be judging them based whether or not they work,” Obama said. He said he was confident that the Republican leadership shared his desire to “produce results.”
The Associated Press notes of the closed-door meeting: “Though deep-seated differences on a number of issues don’t seem to have abated with the election, … [the] president said the two-hour lunch was a chance to ‘explore where we can make progress’ after Americans showed in the midterm that they want to see more accomplished in Washington.”
Despite the upbeat tone, however, the same gaping differences that have stalled previous attempts at compromise look likely to persist.
House Speaker John Boehner, who at a news conference on Thursday warned the president not to take unilateral action on immigration, reiterated that sentiment. In a synopsis, his office said Boehner had warned that an end run around Congress on immigration “will erase any chances of doing immigration reform and will also make it harder for Congress and the White House to work together successfully on other areas where there might otherwise be common ground.”
That was echoed by Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who was quoted by The Associated Press as saying he had spoken out during the lunch, telling the president “that we should tackle immigration reform together on a step-by-step basis, beginning with border security and respect for the rule of law.
“Unfortunately the president’s promise to unilaterally go around Congress ignores the message voters sent on Election Day,” Cornyn said.
A synopsis from the White House on the meeting says, in part: “[The] President urged the leaders to pass a budget for the rest of the fiscal year in the same bipartisan, drama-free way they did earlier this year because there is no reason to create uncertainty for businesses that are putting Americans back to work.”
It also said that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan and Commander of U.S. Central Command Gen. Lloyd Austin briefed lawmakers “on the administration’s ongoing efforts to confront the threat posed by ISIL and requested that Congress provide $5.6 billion in additional resources in FY15 to support the counter-ISIL strategy.”