Three days after his party’s stinging midterm election defeat, President Barack Obama hosted congressional leaders at
the White House, vowing to embrace policies untainted by partisanship.
“The American people just want to see work done here in Washington. I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock,” Obama said on Friday in a White House dining room where more than a dozen congressional leaders were seated.
Americans would “like to see more cooperation, and I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen,” Obama said.
His guests included the incoming Senate majority leader, Republican Mitch McConnell, and Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi were also in attendance.
Republicans trounced Obama’s Democrats in Tuesday’s elections, gaining control of the Senate and expanding their majority in the House.
Both parties are under intense pressure to ease the dysfunction in Washington, and Obama and Republicans have already spoken publicly about possible points of cooperation, including passing tax reform.
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“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.
The president, whose Democrats will be in the minority in both congressional chambers for the first time since 2006, reminded the leaders there was still important congressional work to be done this year, such as passing legislation to fund the federal government.
Obama angered Republicans Wednesday when he said he would take executive action to reform the nation’s immigration system, a move Republicans warned would “poison the well” for cooperation on various other issues.
Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane, reporting from Washington, said all the talk about cooperation could just be talk, depending on what happens on immigration reform.
“Obama has been saying for months that he’s going to take action on his own. One of the things he’s talking about is decreasing deportations.
“The White House has said the president is going to go ahead and take these steps even before the Republicans even have a chance to take power.”