Obama to Host GOP and Democratic Leaders at White House on Nov. 18
Updated 12:35 p..m. ET
Following the "shellacking" he said he received on Tuesday night in the midterm elections, President Obama is opening up lines of communication with the opposition.
Mr. Obama announced after a Cabinet meeting this morning that he has invited the top Democratic and Republican congressional leaders to the White House for talks on November 18 to discuss the upcoming lame duck session in Congress.
The president invited Republican House leader John Boehner, who is expected to become the speaker of the House, as well as current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Also invited are Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Later, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Mr. Obama also invited Reps. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), as well as Sens. Jon Kyl, (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).
Mr. Obama said he wanted the meeting to be "substantive" and not just a photo opportunity.
"This is going to be a meeting in which I want us to talk substantively about how we can move the American people's agenda forward. It's not just going to be a photo-op," he said. "Hopefully it may spill over into dinner." (No word yet on whether Slurpees will be served.)
Democrats will still have sizeable majorities in the lame duck session because new members of Congress do not take office until early January. Issued expected to be taken up before the new Congress is seated include whether to extend the Bush tax cuts (which expire at the end of the year) and whether to extend unemployment insurance again.
Mr. Obama made a specific call for the Senate to ratify the START treaty he negotiated with Russian President Dimitry Medvedev last spring during the session.
"This is not a traditionally Democratic or Republican issue, but, rather, a issue of American national security," he said. "And I am hopeful that we can get that done before we leave, and send a strong signal to Russia that we are serious about reducing nuclear arsenals, but also send a signal to the world that we're serious about nonproliferation."
The president also said he invited all of the nation's newly-elected governors - Democrats and Republicans - to the White House on December 2 to talk about "nuts-and-bolts stuff."
"A lot of times, things are a little less ideological when, you know, you get governors together, because they've got very practical problems that they've got to solve in terms of how they make sure that roads and bridges are funded, and how do they make sure that schools stay open and teachers stay on the job," he said.
Mr. Obama also reiterated what he took from Tuesday's elections.
"It's clear that the voters sent a message, which is they want us to focus on the economy and jobs, and moving this country forward," he said. "They're concerned about making sure that taxpayer money is not wasted. And they want a change of tone here in Washington, where the two parties are coming together and focusing on the people's business as opposed to scoring political points."
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