1 of 8 | President Barack Barack Obama speaks to the media as he holds a lunch meeting with congressional leaders at the White House in Washington, D.C. on November 7, 2014. UPI/Dennis Brack/Pool | License Photo
WASHINGTON, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- In the wake of Republicans gaining control of the Senate, President Barack Obama invited congressional leaders together for lunch at the White House to discuss how they might cooperate to achieve bipartisan productivity and avoid further legislative limbo over the next two years.
The president congratulated the GOP on their performance in the polls Tuesday, saying they ran a "strong campaign," and promised to keep working hard.
"I plan on spending every moment of the next two-plus years doing my job the best I can to keep this country safe and to make sure that more Americans share in its prosperity."
With Friday's luncheon the first step in making his remaining time in office as productive as possible, Obama told reporters that he'd listen for issues Republicans and Democrats can work together on, mentioning manufacturing, boosting exports, and early childhood education specifically.
"All these issues are ones in which there is a strong possibility of bipartisan cooperation as long as we set politics aside for a moment," he said.
Republican leaders, House Speaker John A. Boehner and Sen. Mitch McConnell -- likely to take over as majority leader once Congress reconvenes next year -- joined Obama, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and the rather dejected looking ex-majority leader Sen. Harry Reid at the table in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House.
Although Obama congratulated the Republicans, he advised the American people expect their top leadership to find a way to work together.
"I think they're frustrated by the gridlock. They'd like to see more cooperation," the president said.
In a post-election press conference Thursday, the House Speaker was less than optimistic about the two parties coming together, placing the onus of cooperation on Obama.
"Finding common ground is going to be hard work, but it will be even harder if the president isn't willing to work with us. I've told the president before, he needs to put politics aside and rebuild trust," said Boehner.
"I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen," Obama offered over lunch. "And so this gives us a good opportunity to explore where we can make progress on behalf of the people who sent us here."
As Democrats rush to push last-minute legislation to the president's desk -- including immigration reform, presidential appointments, bills to continue funding the federal government and avoid another shutdown -- and Republicans chomp at the bit for their chance to control Congress, Obama used the opportunity today to communicate that he's more interested in productivity than partisanship.
"The one thing that I've committed to both Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell is that I am not going to judge ideas based on whether they're Democratic or Republican; I'm going to be judging them based on whether or not they work."