President Barack Obama called for an end to gridlock as he lunched Friday with congressional leaders, including the Republicans who in January will control both the Senate and House.
The lunch in the White House Family Dining Room came just three days after Republicans seized control of the Senate in a tidal wave election that could crimp Obama’s last two years in office. But Obama, who said he congratulated incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner for "running very strong campaigns," called for finding common ground.
"What we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington," Obama said. "I think they’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation. And I think all of us have the responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen. "
Obama hailed what he called a "good set of jobs numbers," that were out Friday, but noted that Americans are still anxious.
And he suggested a few areas of compromise, including making college more affordable, rebuilding roads and bridges, tax reform and deficit reduction.
He made no public remarks, however, on a major point of contention between the parties: his plans to sign an executive order to provide temporary legal status to some of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
Republicans warned Obama ahead of the meeting against signing the long-promised executive order, with Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus saying at a breakfast Friday that it would be like "throwing kerosene on a fire."
Such a move would extinguish any hope of cooperation between the White House and next year’s Republican-run Congress, Priebus told reporters, his remarks echoing those of Boehner and McConnell.
Obama, who had delayed signing the order until after the election, will do so before the end of the year, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said -- unless the House acts on an immigration overhaul that the Senate has already passed.
"If they decline to take those steps that are clearly in the best interest of the country, the president's not going to miss that opportunity," Earnest said.
Republicans said they made it clear to Obama during the lunch that they oppose his immigration plan.
"The President's promise to unilaterally go around Congress ignores the message voters sent on Election Day,” said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Tx. “It is my sincere hope that he will reverse course and work with us – not around us – to secure the border and achieve real reforms to our immigration system."