Bush, Senate Dems Vow Cooperation

President Bush, center, watches as Democratic Senate leader Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., second from left, shakes hands with Vice President Dick Cheney, right, as Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., left, looks on, following their meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Friday, Nov. 10, 2006. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Looking to put the bitterness of the campaign behind them, President Bush on Friday cozied up to the Democrats who'll be running the Senate in the new Congress, CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller reports.

"I assured the senators that we'll cooperate as closely as we can to solve common problems," Mr. Bush said after a 45-minute meeting with soon-to-be majority leader Harry Reid and the Senate's No. 2 Democrat, Dick Durbin.

It was a sentiment seconded by Reid.

"The only way to move forward is with bipartisanship, openness and to get some results," Reid said. "And we've made a commitment, the four of us here today, that's what we're going to do."

As a start, Reid proposed a one-day bipartisan summit on the war in Iraq, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Jim Axelrod.

"The American people need to know that there's something going on back here with the leaders of this country — that we're talking about it rather than just talking past each other," Reid said.

Mr. Bush noted that both he and Nevada's Reid are from the West and "tend to speak the same language." He said that bodes well for their relationship.

Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, appreciatively observed that both Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney had chosen blue ties — perhaps in honor of the Democratic victory on Tuesday?

"I was hoping you would notice that," said Mr. Bush.

But the bonhomie before the cameras could quickly disintegrate.

Even while courting the Democrats who will control Capitol Hill beginning in January, Mr. Bush is pressing for the current Congress, while it is still ruled by Republicans, to pass items deeply controversial to Democrats. These include legalizing his warrantless eavesdropping program, stalled in the Senate because of a Democratic filibuster threat, and confirming John Bolton to be U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, which Democrats have opposed.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said both items are crucial, and that Democrats should see their merits.

"I don't think you should look at these as necessarily provocative," he said.

Bolton has held the post on a temporary basis for more than a year, and Mr. Bush cannot make a second recess appointment of him. Without confirmation, he would have to leave the job in January.

"Look at his record. The point is, what complaint do you have with a man who has been so successful?" Snow said.

He left open the possibility that Bolton could remain at the U.N. but just give him a different title.

"I'm not aware of that but I am not going to rule anything in or out," Snow said.

Mr. Bush was as good-natured as he was when he spoke to reporters on Thursday after lunch with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expected be the next speaker of the House.

But Mr. Bush will be leading the nation with a Congress entirely controlled by the Democrats for the first time in his presidency.

It could have him reaching back to his experience as governor of Texas when he cultivated friendships with other top Democrats in the state government — and to his 2000 campaign promise to be a "uniter, not a divider." But his critics say working with conservative Democrats in Texas is far different from working with a House and Senate lead by liberal lawmakers like Reid and Pelosi.
  • Sean Alfano

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