Will Republican House block Obama's goals?By Tom Brune
November 4, 2010
WASHINGTON - In his first stab at setting the tone for the next two years after Tuesday's Republican surge, President Barack Obama Wednesday urged the newly empowered GOP to look forward, not back.
After conceding he'd received a "shellacking" in the midterms, Obama took responsibility for the failure to ease Americans' frustration with unemployment and the economy and said: "I've got to do a better job."
The election results don't signal a rejection of his policies, Obama said as he warned Republicans not to try to undo his legislation, especially health care reform.
Yet he repeatedly asked Republicans and Democrats to meet and work with him in narrow areas of common ground: deficit reduction, energy policy and education improvements. "We're not going to rule out ideas because they're Democrat or Republican," he said at a news conference. "We want to just see what works."
It's an appeal that might be falling on deaf ears, as leaders on both sides of the aisle paid homage to bipartisanship Wednesday while signaling they're prepared for partisan battle.
Still, the path for the newly split Congress - with a Republican House and a Democratic Senate - starts in the White House, elected officials and analysts said Wednesday.
And how Obama approaches Congress and pursues his goals could well determine whether the next two years of his administration is marked by accomplishment or political gridlock. "It depends on the leadership from the White House. That's the big guy who resets the compass," said Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Roslyn Heights).
Obama only offered a bare outline of how he'll proceed, as he assesses how he'll navigate the new, complicated map of Capitol Hill.
The House, once the engine for his ambitious agenda under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), now becomes the instrument of attack on his administration.
"We hope he'll be willing to work with us on our priorities," said House Speaker-in waiting John Boehner (R-Ohio), citing "a smaller, less costly and more accountable government."
The Senate remains in Democratic hands, but with a smaller majority, making it easier for the GOP to filibuster.
"The question is how do we meet in the middle," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). "It seems to me the best strategy for the other side would be to listen to the voters yesterday."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in turn Wednesday called on Republicans to cease their policy of being the "Party of No" and to instead offer real proposals.
Yet the Republicans face their own problems. Even with control of the House, the GOP can't pass their agenda without Democrats. And that creates potential friction with the tea party that helped them win.
"They can't do what they promised to do," Ackerman said, after "they raised the expectations of their supporters to so high a degree."
Hofstra presidential scholar Meena Bose looked back to how Democratic President Bill Clinton reacted in 1994 after losing Congress to the GOP. "What we're going to see over the next two years is a lot of posturing," she said, "but behind the scenes there will be a lot of negotiating."
Rep. Pete King (R-Seaford) said he expects Obama to negotiate directly with Republican leaders.
And Wednesday, for the first time in two years, Obama telephoned him.
King said Obama congratulated him on his Homeland Security Committee chairmanship, and thanked him for praising the handling of the Yemen bombs.
"I think he's going to find ways to work with Republicans," he said.