President Barack Obama vowed Sunday to work with the newly emboldened Republicans in the next Congress but signaled he has no new strategy for staving off the partisanship that has dominated Capitol Hill for the past two years.
During a Friday interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes,” which aired Sunday night, Obama would not say whether he would pivot to the middle as a way to work with a GOP-controlled House, a tactic that President Bill Clinton found success with in the 1990s.
“What I’m going to do is I’m going to reach out to Republicans and I’m going to say, ‘What can we work on together?’” he said. “There must be some things we can agree on.”
Pressed on how that approach is any different from that of the past two years, during which the White House made little progress in chalking up bipartisan successes, Obama said he is “going to keep on trying” because there are issues where there should be agreement. For example, he said, while Republicans generally oppose comprehensive climate change legislation, both Democrats and Republicans support building electric cars in the United States instead of overseas.
The president also addressed his lack of a relationship with the top two Hill Republicans: House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio), who is poised to become Speaker, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.). Obama called them “very smart” and acknowledged their “political skill” in organizing their party in opposition to the Democrats’ agenda.
“My assumption is that we’re going to be able to work together,” he said. “And whenever we’ve had conversations here at the White House or over on Capitol Hill, they’ve always been cordial.”
Earlier Sunday, Obama promised to make “midcourse corrections” to boost his domestic agenda after his party took a drubbing in Tuesday’s midterm elections and lost control of the House.
“How those play themselves out over the next several months will be a matter of me being in discussions with the Republican Party, which is now going to be controlling the House of Representatives. And there are going to be areas where we disagree, and hopefully there are going to be some areas where we agree,” Obama said during a town hall in Mumbai, India, his first stop on a nine-day trip to Asia.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.