President Barack Obama warned Sunday that Americans did not vote for gridlock in mid-term polls as he called on Republicans to work with him, as he returned to a changed Washington from Asia.
Obama set the stage for a key political week — including the start of a lame duck session of the old Congress and planned talks with Republican leaders, as he returned aboard Air Force One from a 10-day trip.
“Campaigning is very different than governing,” Obama said, nearly two weeks after mid-term elections dealt a severe blow to his Democrats and handed control of the House of Representatives to the Republicans.
“They are still flush with victory, having run a strategy that was all about saying no, but I am very confident that the American people were not issuing a mandate for gridlock.”
“My expectation is, when I sit down with (Republican leaders) along with Democratic leaders … they are not going to want to just obstruct, they are going to want to engage constructively,” he said.
Obama is due to meet Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and the man likely to be the Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, at the White House on Thursday.
In his chat with reporters, Obama also admitted that in the depths of the economic crisis after 2008, he had neglected to live up to his vows of bipartisanship and said he would “redouble” his efforts in that area.
The president is locked in a standoff with Republicans over the extension of tax cuts passed under former president George W. Bush, which are due to expire later this year.
Republicans want the cuts extended in their entirety, but Obama campaigned in the mid-terms for taxes to to be returned to prior levels for those earning more than 250,000 dollars a year.
Obama says that the country cannot afford to give a break to higher earners, but Republicans argue that raising taxes at a time of slow economic growth would penalize the economy.
The row may be a first test of Obama’s vow to seek common ground with his foes following the shock of the elections and of his capacity to turn around a presidency in trouble two years from his reelection bid.