News / USA

Obama, Republicans Find Common Ground

The President strongly urges both parties in Congress to pass the compromise on tax cuts, unemployment insurance, and job creation, 11 Dec 2010
The President strongly urges both parties in Congress to pass the compromise on tax cuts, unemployment insurance, and job creation, 11 Dec 2010

Compromise and bipartisanship seem to be the favored words of the week in Washington, where U.S. politics seems to be veering toward the middle of the political spectrum, at least for the moment.  The shift comes just weeks after opposition Republicans strengthened their hand in mid-term congressional elections, presenting President Barack Obama with a major political challenge for the next two years.  

President Obama called Democratic losses in last month's elections a shellacking, and it appears that the president is heeding the advice from some within his own political party to move to the center and find common ground with Republicans.

That common ground took the form of a compromise over extending tax cuts for all Americans first approved under the administration of President George W. Bush.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference following two votes on tax cuts on Capitol Hill in Washington, 04 Dec 2010
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during a news conference following two votes on tax cuts on Capitol Hill in Washington, 04 Dec 2010

"And this proves that both parties can, in fact, work together to grow our economy and look out for the American people," said Obama.

As the compromise makes its way through Congress, the president is getting some rare kudos from Republicans, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.

"We are telling the American people to keep money that is rightfully theirs so they can spend it and invest it as they please," he said. "This is an important shift and the White House should be applauded for agreeing to it."

But some of those not applauding are stalwart liberals in Obama's own Democratic Party who oppose extending tax cuts for the wealthy.

Among those trying to convince them that compromise is a good idea is former President Bill Clinton, who recently met with the president at the White House.

President Barack Obama looks on as former President Bill Clinton speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, 10 Dec 2010
President Barack Obama looks on as former President Bill Clinton speaks in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, 10 Dec 2010

"I think the one thing that always happens when you have divided government is that people no longer see principled compromise as weakness," said Clinton. "This system was set up to promote principled compromise."

Some experts wonder if the president has done lasting damage to his relations with key liberal supporters who helped him get elected two years ago.

Faiz Shakir of the liberal Center for American Progress in Washington says many Democrats are convinced that Republicans are more interested in denying President Obama a second term than in helping him govern.

"The Republican Party sees that anything that President Obama does and gets done accrues to his benefit and that they, the Republican Party, have to stop that from happening," he said.

Shakir appeared on VOA's Encounter program with political expert John Fortier of the conservative American Enterprise Institute.

"There is not much of a middle left in American politics.  Both sides are pretty polarized after this election.  The president is not a wildly unpopular president, he is only mildly unpopular," he added.  "But it took a good beating, a shellacking as he called it, at the polls and is now looking ahead to his re-election."

Predictably, both parties took something different from the November-election results.  Republicans saw a repudiation of the Obama agenda and many newly-elected members want to focus on cutting the size of government during the next two years.

Democrats, including the president, heard another message entirely, says veteran political expert Tom DeFrank of the New York Daily News.

"He [Obama] said that the American people now expect us to work together," he said. "We have got to get something done.  And if we do not get something done, we are all going to be held to account in 2012.  He is trying to appeal to the millions of independents who helped elect him two years ago and who abandoned him by the tens of millions in this last November election."

Some of those same political independents are frustrated with the status quo of American politics and they met in New York this week to launch a movement aimed at ending the hyper-partisanship in Washington.

The group is called "No Labels", as in no more political labels like liberal and conservative, and seeks to find common ground among Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Newark, New Jersey Mayor Cory Booker is among those supporting the "No Labels" movement.

"We, right now, are not hanging together around our common principles and our common ideals and there is nothing more toxic to the soul of a nation when the lines of divide begin to trump the ties that bind," said Booker.

Many analysts question how long any mood of bipartisanship will last in Washington.

Political expert Norman Ornstein says the political divide remains deep, despite the recent tax compromise.

"Independents and Democrats, by almost two to one, say, 'Work together and compromise.'  Republicans by nearly two to one say, 'Stick to principle even if it means nothing gets done.'  Now how we work our way through that remains to be seen," he said.

That process begins in early January when the new Congress is seated and Republicans take control of the House of Representatives, while Democrats maintain a majority in the Senate.

You May Like

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' 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.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs