Obama Prods Congressional Leaders for Action

Before a meeting with Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders Tuesday morning in the White House Cabinet Room, President Obama reiterated his push for "Congress to move forward in a more bipartisan fashion on some of the key challenges that the country is facing right now."

"I think it's fair to say that the American people are frustrated with the lack of progress on some key issues," said Mr. Obama. "And although the parties are not going to agree on every single item, there should be some areas where we can agree and we can get some things done even as we have vigorous debates on some of those issues that we don't agree on."

He said a jobs package to spur small business hiring is "a good place to start," since both parties have potentially-useful ideas. He expressed hope that a bill will move forward "over the next several weeks" that can help lower the unemployment rate.

Among the proposals with at least some bipartisan support is a tax credit for businesses that hire new workers, which is backed by Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Present at the meeting with the president were Vice President Joe Biden, Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell and Reps. Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and John Boehner.

In his remarks before the closed-door discussion, Mr. Obama vowed to discuss his fiscal commission to address the deficit and debt and delays in the confirmation of his nominees in the Senate. He added that he would "spend time listening" to leaders from both parties and said he planned "to be doing these on a regular basis" going forward.

"I'm confident that if we move forward in a spirit of keeping in mind what's best for the American people that we should be able to accomplish a lot," said the president.

Republicans have been nearly unified in their opposition to most Democratic proposals during the president's first year, chief among them the health care reform effort. A vote scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to confirm Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board is expected to be met with a Republican filibuster.

GOP leaders have questioned the sincerity of the White House's bipartisan push, which includes a televised health overhaul summit on Feb. 25. In a letter yesterday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor asked skeptically if President Obama "has taken off the table the idea of relying solely on Democratic votes and jamming through health care reform by way of reconciliation." The White House has rejected Republican calls to start over on health care reform.

Democrats, in turn, have cast Republicans as obstructionists who refuse to bring workable ideas to the table and who are putting political concerns ahead of the concerns of the American people.