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Obama Calls for an End to Partisan Politics in Congress


At his inauguration, U.S. President Barack Obama issued a call to Americans to end what he called "stale politics" so the country can move forward. For decades politics as usual has been the general rule in the U.S. Congress, despite calls by successive presidents for bipartisan cooperation.

During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama spoke often of the need for a new style of politics, an appeal he expressed again in his inaugural address.

"We come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics," he said.

Over the decades, many presidents have begun their administrations with pledges to pursue new levels of bipartisanship. Some have been more successful than others.

The strength of President Obama's victory in last November's election, and initial approaches he made to Republicans before his inauguration, may help smooth the way for his agenda on Capitol Hill.

House Republican leader John Boehner appeared to be seeking to lay the groundwork for cooperation, saying in a statement Tuesday that Republicans "look forward to finding common ground with the President on solutions to the U.S. economic crisis among other issues.

In his address, President Obama also referred to what he called a shifting of the political ground, saying "stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply."

His task now and in coming months and years will be to reinforce this persuasively and respectfully.

As he exchanged toasts with members of Congress at the traditional post-inaugural luncheon in the Capitol, the new president said Americans who spoke with their votes in last November's election expect their president and representatives to work together.

"The American people have come together across races and regions and stations. Now we have to do the same. Now it falls to us, the people's representatives, to give our fullest measure of devotion to the cause of freedom, and liberty, and justice, decency and dignity and our chamber should reflect what we know are in the hearts of the American people," he said.

Vice President Joseph Biden had this message for those gathered in Statuary Hall in the Capitol.

"Just think to yourselves, look around at the table next to you, look at the people you are sitting next to, and remind yourself, remind yourself what this Constitution is about. There [are] three co-equal branches of government and together there is not a single solitary thing we cannot achieve," he said.

A much-strengthened Democratic majority in the House and Senate, and pressures on lawmakers to deal effectively with the economic crisis, will no doubt help President Obama get his major domestic and foreign-agenda goals through Congress.

Also helping will be the extensive connections on Capitol Hill of his chief of staff, former Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel, and the influence of other former congressional staffers serving President Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden.

Senior members of President Obama's new administration wasted no time after the inauguration getting to work on the most important piece of legislation Congress will consider in decades - an economic recovery bill.

Democrats want that legislation completed by the middle of February. But President Obama has hard work ahead to ease concerns of Republicans about the huge size of the $825 billion measure.

Also ahead in coming months will be more hard work on issues such as financial regulation reforms. The success President Obama has on these initial hurdles will provide an early test of his ability to navigate the partisan divides in Congress.

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