News / USA

    Obama And Republicans Explore Compromise

    President Barack Obama talks with Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., at the conclusion of a meeting with bipartisan Congressional leadership in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, Nov. 30, 2010. Listening at right are: Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sen. Jon Kyl, R-
    President Barack Obama talks with Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., at the conclusion of a meeting with bipartisan Congressional leadership in the Oval Office Private Dining Room, Nov. 30, 2010. Listening at right are: Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; Sen. Jon Kyl, R-

    In U.S. politics, there were signs of encouragement this week following the first post-election meeting between President Barack Obama and Republican congressional leaders. Mr. Obama faces a new political reality in January when Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and strengthen their minority in the Senate. Many experts see this latest version of divided government as a recipe for gridlock over the next two years. But that has not always been the case in the past.

    The political tone from both sides seemed more positive than negative after their first meeting.

    Republican leaders called it polite and frank, while President Obama described it as very productive.

    "The American people did not vote for gridlock," said President Obama. "They did not vote for unyielding partisanship. They are demanding cooperation and they are demanding progress and they will hold all of us, and I mean all of us, accountable for it."

    It is too early to tell, of course, whether the improved rhetoric will lead to actual cooperation and action in Congress.

    But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said there are recent examples of the two political parties finding common ground in Washington.

    "Americans have preferred divided government more often than not since World War II," said McConnell. "It is not unusual to find ourselves to be in the position we will be in, in the 112th Congress. It is also important to remember that some of these periods when you have had divided government have been quite productive."

    The most recent example took place during the presidency of Bill Clinton. Democrats lost control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections, prompting a bitter clash with Republicans that led to two government shutdowns late in 1995.

    Despite that rough start, Mr. Clinton and Republican congressional leaders were able to find common ground on international trade and welfare reform, bipartisan achievements that set the stage for the president's re-election in 1996.

    In his 1996 State of the Union Address, President Clinton acknowledged the new political reality in Washington.

    "The era of big government is over," said Clinton. "But we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves."

    Former Clinton strategist Mark Penn says there may be some lessons in that experience for President Obama.

    "People look at what happened with President Clinton and saw what happened after the 1994 midterms that we had years of bipartisan action even though both houses of Congress moved into Republican hands," said Penn. "I think a lot of Americans are hoping we are going to have that kind of action, but a lot of columnists are saying it looks like gridlock so far."

    In 1981, Republican Ronald Reagan brought conservative change to Washington when he was inaugurated president after defeating Democrat Jimmy Carter.

    "In this present crisis government is not the solution to our problem," said Reagan. "Government is the problem."

    Mr. Reagan suffered congressional losses in his first midterm election in 1982, but was able to find some areas of compromise with the Democratic Speaker of the House, Representative Tip O'Neill of Massachusetts.

    Republican gains in last month's election were fueled in part by the discontent of independent and moderate voters with President Obama's agenda, many of whom had supported candidate Obama two years ago.

    Karlyn Bowman monitors public opinion for the American Enterprise Institute in Washington:

    "Independents swung massively in the GOP [Republican] direction," she said. "This is the third election in a row in which independents voted out the party in power, this time by 55 to 39 percent. In 2006 they voted for the Democrats by roughly the same margin."

    Strategist Mark Penn says the public, and especially independent voters, will be watching for signs of change from Mr. Obama when he gives the annual State of the Union Address in January.

    "We have not seen the State of the Union [Address] yet, and that will really tell you, whether on taxes, health care, energy, government spending, the deficit he is going to move to the center or stick to the current course," he said.

    The early indications are that the public does not expect much in the way of cooperation. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that 73 percent of those asked believe President Obama and the Republicans are too far apart to reach a compromise on major issues.


    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.

    You May Like

    Egypt Orders Trial for Journalists Charged With Harboring Reporters

    Order targets journalists' union chief Yehia Qalash, Khaled al-Balshy and Gamal Abdel Rahim for allegedly spreading false news, harboring fugitive colleagues

    Nigerian Oil Production Falls as Militant Attacks Take Toll

    Country no longer Africa's petroleum king due to renewed militancy in its oil-producing region

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    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.
    New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahdai
    X
    Lisa Schlein
    May 31, 2016 1:56 PM
    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Chapter for Tunisia's Ennahda

    Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda party says it is separating its religious and political activities in a broader bid to mark its so-called Muslim Democratic identity. The move appears to open a new chapter for a party that bounced back from the political wilderness of Tunisia’s pre-revolution days to become a key player in the North African country, and a member of the current coalition government. From Tunis, Lisa Bryant takes a look at how Tunisians are viewing its latest step.
    Video

    Video New Mobile App Allows Dutch Muslims to Rate their Imams

    If a young Dutch-Moroccan app developer has his way, Muslims in the Netherlands will soon be able to rate their imams online. Mohamed Mouman says imams rarely get feedback from their followers. He believes his app can give prayer leaders a better picture of what's happening in their communities — and can also keep young people from being radicalized. Serginho Roosblad reports from Amsterdam.
    Video

    Video Moscow Condemns NATO Plans to Beef Up Defense in Eastern Europe, Baltics

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday an upcoming "landmark summit" will enhance the alliance's defensive and deterrent presence in eastern Europe and the Baltics. He is visiting Poland ahead of the NATO Summit in Warsaw. Zlatica Hoke reports
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video F-35 Fighter Jet Draws Criticisms as Costs Mount

    America’s latest fighter plane, the F-35, has been mired in controversy. Critics cite cost, faulty design, and the attempt to use it to fill multiple roles. Even the pilot’s helmet is controversial. VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Concerns Over Civilian Suffering as Iraqi Forces Surround Fallujah

    Thousands of residents are trapped inside the IS-held city ahead of a full scale Iraqi offensive aimed at retaking it.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora