WHITE HOUSE —
Citing the need to get work done in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama sat down with Republican congressional leaders after their party’s sweep of midterm elections earlier this week.
Going into Friday’s lunch at the executive mansion, the president and Republican congressional leaders stood firm and on opposite sides of at least on one issue, immigration.
With Obama on Wednesday vowing to use his executive authority to reform the system…
“What I am not going to do is just wait. I think it is fair to say that I have shown a lot of patience," said President Obama.
Republican House Speaker John Boehner warned the president not to take such action.
“I have made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally on his own, outside of his authority, he will poison the well, and there will be no chance for immigration reform moving in this Congress," said Boehner.
In a statement, Boehner repeated that sentiment during Friday’s lunch with President Obama, fellow Republican and likely Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic leaders.
To begin the meeting, President Obama struck a conciliatory tone and emphasized the need to work together.
“I think they are frustrated by the gridlock. They would like to see more cooperation. And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen," said Obama.
The president noted he is interested in good ideas, regardless of what party they come from, to build on the country’s economic momentum. He cited an unemployment rate that has dropped to 5.8 percent - the lowest in six years.
In a statement issued after the lunch, Boehner also named jobs and the economy as a top priority of the American people.
Earlier, Obama repeated possible areas of common ground with congressional leaders including on infrastructure and trade.
“…whether that is putting people back to work through stronger manufacturing here in the United States, and selling more to countries around the world, one of the major topics that we are going to be discussing during my Asia trip next week," said Obama.
But after the more than two-hour meeting, there were no public remarks from the president or congressional leaders.
Lawmakers heard from top U.S. military commanders - who briefed them on the fight against the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria.
President Obama on Friday authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 non-combat troops to Iraq to help train local forces. In a statement issued after the lunch, the White House said the president requested another $5.6 billion to support the strategy against the Islamic State.
The president also called for Congress to approve emergency funding for another fight - this one against Ebola in West Africa. Both issues, along with passing a budget, remain top priorities in the coming weeks, as Obama and a new Congress try to forge a new way forward.