President Barack Obama, huddling with House and Senate leaders for the first time this year, urged lawmakers Tuesday to stake out areas of compromise, including on trade, tax reform and cybersecurity.
“I’m hopeful that with a spirit of cooperation and putting America first, we can be in a position where at the end of this year, we can look back and say we’re that much better off than we were when we started the year,” Obama said. He was flanked by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the two Republicans now in charge on Capitol Hill.
Yet Obama’s sunny spin on Washington’s new power dynamic was at odds with much of what has played out in the week since the new Congress was seated. Republicans have taken aim at core elements of the president’s agenda, including immigration and health care, and the White House has responded with a flurry of veto threats.
Still, both sides have at least paid lip service to the prospect of compromising on issues where they have common interests. Republicans have been far more supportive than many Democrats of Obama’s efforts to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. And both parties have discussed the need to overhaul the nation’s complex tax code.
On Tuesday, Obama identified cybersecurity as a third potential area of compromise. He renewed his call for Congress to pass legislation encouraging the private sector to share cyberthreat data with the government and shield companies from lawsuits if they opt to do so.
“I think we agreed that this is an area where we can work hard together, get some legislation done and make sure that we are much more effective in protecting the American people from these kinds of cyberattacks,” Obama said.
Absent from Tuesday’s meeting was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who suffered an injury during a recent workout and has not yet returned to Capitol Hill.
Before heading to the White House, Boehner told reporters that he expected to press the president to lessen his opposition to economic legislation championed by Republicans.
“We’re going to make it clear to the president that we’re listening to the American people, who want us to work together on their priorities, and their priorities have to do with the economy and jobs,” Boehner said. “We hope he’ll start to listen, too, and reconsider his opposition to some of our jobs bills.”
The White House said the president was also likely to update lawmakers on foreign policy issues, including the military campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.