News / USA

Can Obama, Congressional Republicans Find Common Ground?

The Capitol is seen at sunrise the morning after the midterm elections, 03 Nov 2010
The Capitol is seen at sunrise the morning after the midterm elections, 03 Nov 2010

Two years after promising to bring change to Washington, Democratic President Barack Obama faces the new political reality of Republicans promising change of their own after winning back control of the House of Representatives.  Republicans say Tuesday's congressional midterm elections were a rebuke of the president and his policies.  Mr. Obama says it is a call from the American public for bipartisan governance.  

Republicans easily retook the House, but they fell short of winning back the Senate.  It was a remarkable comeback for a political party declared irrelevant by some Democrats only two years ago in the wake of Barack Obama's presidential victory and expanded Democratic Party majorities in the House and the Senate.

President Barack Obama waves as he turns to leave after a news conference in the East Room of the White House, 03 Nov 2010
President Barack Obama waves as he turns to leave after a news conference in the East Room of the White House, 03 Nov 2010

The president acknowledged the public mood in his first news conference since Tuesday's elections.  He said he is committed to finding areas of cooperation with the new Republican Party majority in the House.

"No one party will be able to dictate where we go from here, and that we must find common ground in order to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges," the president said.  "And I told [Ohio Republican Representative] John Boehner and [Kentucky Republican Senator] Mitch McConnell last night that I am very eager to sit down with members of both parties and figure out how we can move forward together."

Although they narrowly missed gaining enough seats to win a majority in the Senate, Republicans are emboldened by Tuesday's gains overall and they eager to reduce the size of government, cut federal spending and lower taxes.

Ohio Republican Representative John Boehner is expected to become the next Speaker of the House.  He told reporters that cooperation will depend on the willingness of the president and his fellow Democrats to change.

US Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, is seen on a television screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, 03 Nov 2010
US Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, is seen on a television screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, 03 Nov 2010

"It is pretty clear that the Obama-[California Democratic Representative Nancy] Pelosi agenda is being rejected by the American people.  As I said last night, they want the president to change course.  And I think it is change course we will," said Boehner.

Voter exit surveys from Tuesday's elections show that Americans are worried about the economy more than any other issue, and that they are frustrated by the high unemployment rate -- which is 9.6 percent nationally.

But pollster John Zogby says the results should be read as a rejection of the Democrats more than an embrace of the Republicans.

"Frustration with the Democrats spelled victory for Republicans, but not love," he said.

Republicans say that the elections show that most Americans agree with their diagnosis that the Obama administration has spent too much money and run up the national debt too high.

But pollster Zogby says most people were focused on a more basic concern.

"Solid majorities say we will accept trillions of dollars being spent, but where are the jobs?  And where is the progress?  And so essentially, that is wherein a lot of the anger comes," Zogby said.

The key question is:  What happens next?  Will the president and Republicans be able to find common ground on issues like the economy, foreign trade and climate change?

Many political analysts are skeptical, at least for now, including John Fortier of the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute.

"Two parties, very polarized, and that will drive what we will see after the election, which I expect will be a significant amount of gridlock," he said.

Several incoming Republican lawmakers were strongly supported by grassroots conservative and libertarian activists from the Tea Party movement, which has made shrinking the size of government its top priority.

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato says he sees a showdown coming because many of the elected Tea Party supporters already have signaled that they are more interested in principle than compromise.

"I have seen many of the Tea Party leaders say, 'Our people are going to Washington to change things; we are not going to compromise and the others are going to have to come along with us,' said Sabato."

Another complicating factor that might make bipartisan cooperation difficult is the 2012 presidential election.  Although still two years away, potential Republican White House contenders are already making preparations for a presidential run that will likely begin in earnest early next year when candidates start raising money and recruiting supporters.

Again, political analyst John Fortier:

Former President Bill Clinton holds up four-month old Natalie Fontana of Washingtonville, N.Y. while making a campaign stop for Rep. John Hall in Harriman, N.Y., 30 Oct 2010
Former President Bill Clinton holds up four-month old Natalie Fontana of Washingtonville, N.Y. while making a campaign stop for Rep. John Hall in Harriman, N.Y., 30 Oct 2010

"You will see presidential candidates on the Republican side announcing that they are running for president, and that will be another dynamic, which is likely to pull the parties apart as the presidential candidates on the Republican side argue amongst themselves, probably appeal to a more conservative primary electorate, and are less likely to be voicing interest in cooperation with the president," Sabato added.

Former Democratic President Bill Clinton faced a similar challenge following the 1994 midterm elections when Republicans were swept to power in the House and Senate.  Mr. Clinton confronted the Republicans on some issues and cooperated with them on others - a pattern, analysts say, that contributed to his reelection in 1996.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs