The Senate began its lame duck session Wednesday with a familiar tone: Each party’s leader vowed cooperation but then quickly warned they’re eager to promote their partisan agendas.
Take unilateral action, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., warned President Barack Obama, and he would make "a big mistake."
"Let’s not do things to hurt the possibility of a cooperative partnership," he said.
The session, the Senate’s first formal meeting since September, began with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, congratulating Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. Republicans, who now have 45 Senate seats, will have at least 53 next year.
Just before the session, Reid and other Democratic leaders discussed their agenda for about an hour with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough at the Capitol.
On the Senate floor, Reid insisted he was a man of compromise. "I have been able to strike compromise with my Republican colleagues and I’m ready to do it again," he said.
Then came the qualifier. "Regardless of how you may interpret last week’s election results," he said, "it’s clear that the American people want us to join together to get things done for the middle class and all Americans."
As an example, he cited how four "very red states" approved minimum wage increases last week.
"Republicans outside this building don’t object to giving American workers a livable wage," Reid said. He then listed other issues where the two parties have disagreed, including pay equity legislation and student debt relief.
McConnell, who is expected to be majority leader next year, was more direct.
"Last week the American people sent a strong message to Washington," he said. "They voted for a new direction. They called for a change in the way we do things here in the Senate."
After listing the lame duck session’s likely agenda, including funding the government past December and addressing the Ebola crisis, he turned to immigration.
"I think President Obama has the duty to help build the trust we all need to move forward together," he said, "not to double down on the old ways of doing business."
Obama is considering executive action to revamp immigration laws. Don’t do it, McConnell warned—it would be a "big mistake," he told the Senate.
So was the decision "to essentially give China a free pass on emissions while hurting middle class families and struggling miners here in our country.