Emanuel Courts GOP

Posted November 20, 2008 at 2:55pm

Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) spent Thursday making nice with House and Senate GOP leaders in his new role as chief of staff for President-elect Barack Obama.

Emanuel, known for his hard-edged political style, spent the morning calling more than 20 House Republicans to congratulate them on winning their seats and to discuss their ideas for the 111th Congress. By the afternoon, he had met with Senate Republican leaders and was on his way to meet with incoming House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.).

“We welcome their ideas,” Emanuel said after talking with Senate GOP leaders. The scope of problems facing the country “requires that people from both parties work together,” he said. There is “enough good will” between lawmakers to get things done.

Emanuel’s good-will tour is the latest indication that Obama is serious about setting a tone of bipartisanship in the early days of his administration. Obama has said he plans to employ Republicans in his White House, and has openly worked to keep Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) in his party’s ranks.

Senate Republicans seemed pleased with Emanuel’s visit.

Emanuel “came in with exactly the right tone” for a first meeting, Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.), the outgoing National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, said as he exited the meeting. “Let’s prove it out to the next six to 12 months. Actions speak louder than words.”

Ensign said Emanuel signaled an openness to listen to Republican ideas on issues such as economic stimulus legislation.

The Nevada Republican declined to say whether the stalled auto industry legislation was discussed, saying only that he would defer to party leaders “to speak for themselves” on the status of that issue.