President Obama opened a White House meeting with congressional leaders by calling for an end Washington’s gridlock, arguing that was the message behind Tuesday’s Democratic drubbing.
Speaking from the White House dining room, where he was flanked by Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidReid: Comey should be investigated in wake of Russia report Spokesman: NY Times ignored Reid's comments in pre-election story on Russia Senate passes dozens of bills on way out of town MORE (D-Nev.) on one side and Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerNetanyahu: 'No question' about Trump's support for Israel The Hill's 12:30 Report Boehner compares Trump to Teddy Roosevelt MORE (R-Ohio) on the other, Obama said the midterm results demonstrated that voters were “frustrated by the gridlock in Washington.”
The midterm elections swept Reid and Democrats from power in the Senate, returning them to the minority after eight years. Voters also elected a larger Republican majority in the House, and Republican gubernatorial candidates won surprising victories in blue states such as Maryland and Obama's home state of Illinois.
Republicans have reacted to those gains by arguing the elections were a rebuke of Obama, but the president in his comments has made efforts to undercut that charge. At a press conference on Wednesday, he noted that only a third of voters turned out on Election Day.
He struck a conciliatory note on Friday by saying he would seek to work across the aisle with Boehner and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellHeitkamp is Trump's top choice for Agriculture secretary: report Schumer calls for Senate probe into Russian interference Senate passes stopgap funding bill, averting shutdown MORE (Ky.), who sat to Reid’s left during Obama’s comments.
“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," Obama said. “And I’m confident that they want to produce results as well on behalf of the American people.”
Boehner reiterated his calls for Washington to focus on the economy and jobs.
Boehner and Republicans have noted that the House has passed more than 40 bills that have been held up in the Senate, suggesting there will be an effort to send many of them to Obama's desk when Republicans take control of the Senate.
The Speaker also reiterated that Obama should not take unilateral executive action on immigration, arguing this would go against his pledge to work with Congress.
Shortly after the meeting ended, the administration announced it was sending another 1,500 troops to Iraq to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
At the meeting, Boehner called on Obama to request a new authorization of military force from Congress for the mission and said Republicans were willing to work with him on a request.
The lawmakers dined on a salad with a toasted shallot dressing, herb-crusted sea bass, and a pumpkin tart with vanilla whipped cream and candied ginger.
Republican leaders have said they will pursue repeal of the president's signature healthcare law, and warned that executive action on immigration would kill chances of a broader bill.
But the president said he thought the group could find common ground on infrastructure projects, tax reform and education funding.
“All these issues are ones in which there is a strong possibility for bipartisan cooperation as long as we set politics aside for a moment and focus on the people who actually sent us here,” he said earlier Friday.
A House Republican leadership aide said the GOP too wanted to focus on jobs and the economy, suggesting that the president consider endorsing dozens of House-passed jobs bills that have not been taken up by the Senate.
“Republican leaders will remind the president that the list of House-passed jobs bills is a great place to start for immediate, bipartisan action to help create more private-sector American jobs,” the aide said.
Democrats have said those bills include unacceptable provisions that would regulations and environmental protections.
The president and lawmakers were expected to discuss the need to pass a measure to keep the government funded past Dec. 11, when the current measure lapses.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest pointed to the issue as one on which the two sides could agree.
"Sen. McConnell spoke pretty loud and clear when he said there’s not going to be a government shutdown," Earnest said. "He’ll find a partner here in this administration to work with them to avoid a shutdown."
Updated at 4:04 p.m.