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Obama, Republicans Pledge Cooperation, With Limits

  • VOA News

With Tuesday's congressional elections behind him, U.S. President Barack Obama is looking to reach common ground with Republican lawmakers who are poised to take full control of Congress next year.

Obama has invited congressional leaders to the White House for a Friday meeting to discuss legislative priorities. The president's Democratic Party suffered humiliating losses in Tuesday's elections, as Republicans won enough seats to win control of the Senate and tighten their grip on the House.

The president told reporters Wednesday he is certain the fractious American political parties can agree on some issues.

"If there are ideas that the Republicans have that I have confidence will make things better for ordinary Americans, the fact that a Republican is suggesting it, as opposed to a Democrat, that will be irrelevant to me," Obama said. "I want to just see what works."

Looking for common ground

Meanwhile, the presumptive Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said he will work with Obama to win approval on international trade pacts and tax reform. He said they agreed in a telephone call to look for issues where they could reach agreement.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky holds a news conference in Louisville, Nov. 5, 2014.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky holds a news conference in Louisville, Nov. 5, 2014.

McConnell said one message of the election is that a politically divided government need not result in continued gridlock in Washington.

"There are a lot of people who believe that just because you have divided government does not mean you do not accomplish anything," the current Republican minority leader said.

Obama said at a news conference that he is looking for broad agreement with Congress, but acknowledged the Republican Congress is likely to approve some legislation he cannot sign. McConnell agreed that the president might veto some Republican legislation.

Immigration remains sticking point

One point of contention could emerge before the end of the year. Obama repeated his promise to unilaterally change the country's immigration policies, a move that could allow millions of migrants who entered the country illegally to stay in the United States. McConnell said he hopes the president will not take such action.

But Obama said he will act because the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has balked at acting on a comprehensive immigration measure approved by the Senate.

Democrats held 55 of the Senate's 100 seats before Tuesday's congressional elections, but Republicans gained at least seven seats with wins in Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia. Three races were still undecided on Wednesday.

Voters rebuked Obama

The results were a stinging rebuff to Obama, who was not on the ballot, but said his policies were.

While taking over Senate control come January, Republicans added at least 14 seats in the 435-member House, where they already held 233 seats. It will be the Republicans' biggest majority since the 1940s.

House Speaker John Boehner said the Republican-controlled Congress will work on energy and jobs legislation that he says Senate Democrats have been stalling while in control.

"It is time for government to start getting results," Boehner said.

With control of Congress, McConnell said Republicans will continue to address disputes with Obama over his signature legislative achievement, health care reform. Many Republicans view the law as excessive government involvement and have repeatedly called for its repeal.