President Obama and a newly empowered Republican leadership team will meet face-to-face Friday for the first time since Democrats took an electoral drubbing, offering the first real clues as to whether the next two years will bring gridlock and partisan warfare — or some breakthroughs.
Both Obama and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the presumptive Senate majority leader next year, signaled Wednesday afternoon that voters upended the balance of power in Washington in part because they’re tired of Washington’s “dysfunction.” McConnell and fellow Republicans claimed the vote also was a major rejection of Obama’s policies — but both sides claimed they want to try and work together in the remaining years of Obama’s term.
Voters have heard this pledge before, only to see the conciliatory spirit doused by the political pressure of the next elections.
Obama, testing the new political waters, has called a major summit for Friday at the White House with top congressional leaders from both parties.
This will include McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner, as well as Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and his deputies — and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and hers. Republicans on Tuesday picked up at least seven seats in the Senate, giving them the majority, and built their majority in the House to historic levels.
On Wednesday, Obama made clear he does plan to pursue a highly controversial policy during the lame-duck session — and take executive action on immigration in the absence of any comprehensive bill.
“Before the end of the year, we’re going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take” to improve the system, Obama said. He said he still wants Congress to pass legislation, but wants to figure out “what we can do lawfully through executive actions” in the meantime. He promised that if Congress passes a bill, it would make any executive actions “go away.”
Republicans have urged Obama to hold off on this step, and the move could get Obama and the new GOP-control Congress off on the wrong foot.