For an early idea of how the Democratic White House and emboldened House Republicans will get along next year, keep an eye on Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Rep. Darrell Issa, California Republican.
Mr. Biden, the administration's point man touting the economic stimulus, and Mr. Issa, the Republicans' top House investigator who called White House claims of the program's success fake, have made peace for now. But will the cooperative spirit last?
Both men have been known for over-the-top rhetoric, and there was little reason for them to cooperate while Democrats controlled the House.
But just as the House Republican election victories in November forced President Obama to compromise on taxes, it led Mr. Biden to a peace pact with Mr. Issa that may avoid a torrent of Republican subpoenas.
The Biden-Issa relationship is important to voters because it can be a harbinger of the political atmosphere going into the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
After an hourlong meeting Nov. 30, the vice president and the congressman agreed in a joint statement to work together against waste and secrecy in government spending.
They met on the same day that Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans pledged warily to seek common ground on tax cuts and reduced spending.
Mr. Issa, incoming chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and Mr. Biden each have much to gain from a smooth start when Republicans take over the House in January.
The White House doesn't want Mr. Issa, who will inherit the chairmanship's subpoena power, to use that authority to flood the administration with demands for information.
Mr. Issa doesn't want to be seen as the Republican flame-thrower that many expect him to be, given his many statements and interviews criticizing the administration — especially the president's $814 billion stimulus program enacted last year to create and save jobs.
Both men remember what happened when Rep. Dan Burton, Indiana Republican, headed the oversight panel during the Clinton administration. Mr. Burton investigated a Democratic campaign funding scandal, but did it in a way that generated considerable partisan rancor.
Republicans, meanwhile, considered Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, too partisan when he led the committee's investigations into the George W. Bush administration.
If the peace agreement holds, Mr. Issa could encourage investigations of the administration while sparing himself the image of an extreme partisan. One of his priorities is to give all federal inspectors general — the nonpolitical watchdogs in each executive branch agency — subpoena authority. Only the Defense Department watchdog has it now.
"I don't need to be looking at every failure of government," Mr. Issa said. "I need to be looking at where failure of government needs reform. You bring it back to Congress and we fix it."
Soon after taking office in 2009, Mr. Obama announced that Mr. Biden would oversee the stimulus spending and meet regularly with Cabinet members, governors and mayors to make sure the job-creating and job-saving program worked. The administration created a website to track spending and let taxpayers see what projects were affecting their neighborhoods.
Mr. Biden last month told a conference of government investigators, auditors, analysts and prosecutors that the administration has done an exceptional job of ferreting out fraud, waste and abuse in the program.
In past statements, Mr. Issa has strongly disagreed and left the impression that he would launch an offensive against stimulus spending if he became the oversight committee's chairman.
In an Aug. 16 report titled "Public Relations and Propaganda Initiatives," the Southern Californian said the website for the stimulus package presented "fictitious and misleading" figures on jobs saved and created.