Obama, Republican leaders test will for compromise

President Barack Obama and the congressional leadership sit down for lunch at the White House on Friday to search for ways to cooperate and try to break Washington's gridlock when Republicans take control of both chambers in the next Congress.

Washington: President Barack Obama and the congressional leadership sit down for lunch at the White House on Friday to search for ways to cooperate and try to break Washington's gridlock when Republicans take control of both chambers in the next Congress.

The midterm election earlier this week produced a stunning rebuke to Obama and his Democrats, with Republicans snatching control of the Senate and widening their dominance in the House of Representatives.

The new configuration leaves Obama and the Republicans with the choice of finding points of compromise -- on issues such as overhauling the tax code and immigration reform -- or to continue acting on the ideological gulf that has seized the nation's politics.

In remarks today at the opening at a meeting of his Cabinet, Obama termed the election results "significant" and said he looked forward to meeting with congressional leaders to work on ways to "be more helpful" to the American people. He said he was eager to hear Republican ideas.

Obama's only defence, if compromise cannot be found, would be his presidential veto power over legislation when it hits his desk.

The Republicans, while in power in both houses of Congress, do not have a sufficiently large majority to override a presidential veto.

Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress could temper their partisanship as they look forward to the next election that will include choosing a new president.

One of the big messages voters delivered this year was disgust with the government's inability to act.

Republicans have said that they must show the American public they can use their new powers to govern, not just oppose the president.

Republicans took over at least seven seats in the 100-member Senate on Tuesday, more than enough to grab the majority next year.

With three Senate races still uncalled, the Republicans could win more seats for a majority. In the House, the Republican dominance increased to levels not seen since shortly after the end of World War II.

Sitting down for lunch with the president are 16 top-ranking lawmakers. They will be looking at a way forward on unfinished business that must be wrapped up before the end of this year's session.

But even more important will be the atmospherics that could set the tone for the next Congress is sworn in after the New Year.