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Bipartisanship makes a brief Hill appearance
A rare and likely fleeting show of bipartisanship enveloped Capitol Hill on Monday as members of both parties congratulated President Obama on his second inauguration, though some Republicans tempered their praise with concerns about the tasks ahead.
Democrats accentuated the positive, saying that despite the problems facing the nation — including vexing fiscal challenges and ongoing foreign threats — Mr. Obama has built a solid base during his first four years from which to lead the country forward.
“President Obama has taken action to strengthen our economy, reduce our deficits and increase our national security,” said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat. “We have made significant progress over the course of his first term, but we know more needs to be done to make the promise of the American Dream more accessible to every American.”
Mr. Hoyer also called for greater cooperation between the parties on Capitol Hill, which has been gridlocked by partisan intransigence in recent years.
“I am hopeful that, in witnessing our president publicly renew his oath today, we can all — Democrats and Republicans — be moved by the same love of country and our shared history and work together to meet the challenges that we face today,” he said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, at a luncheon at the Capitol after Mr. Obama’s ceremonial swearing-in, said that despite the nation’s challenges at home and abroad, “we heard in President Obama’s inaugural address a message of hope, a vision of peace, progress and prosperity, and a promise of freedom for all.”
One of the Senate’s newest members, Sen. Mazie K. Hirono, a Democrat who hails from Mr. Obama’s native Hawaii, offered a personal perspective, saying she once worked for Mr. Obama’s maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, who helped raise the future president and that her “determination and fight for fairness clearly lives on in our president.”
“It is in this spirit that I congratulate President Obama on his inauguration to a second term and wish him well in the fulfillment of his duty to lead the U.S. at home and abroad over the next four years,” he said.
Mr. McConnell said Republicans are eager to work with the president on solving the “transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt.” He added that a divided government in which each party shares some control “provides the perfect opportunity to do so.”
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, Utah Republican, said he looks forward to “working with President Obama during his second term to get our country back on the right track.”
Outspoken Republican Rep. Steve King of Iowa was among the first congressional lawmakers to weigh in on the inauguration. He issued a statement more than three hours before Mr. Obama ceremonially took the oath of office that his second term “may require refreshening.”
“In Iowa, we understand that each new harvest season brings new crops, and as the Bible teaches, to everything there is a season,” Mr. King said. “With the presidential campaign behind us, a new season begins today.”
Mr. King added he encourages Mr. Obama during his second term to look for “new opportunities to uphold the rights enshrined in the Constitution, and to commit to representing the desires and dreams of the American people.”
Sen. Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, declined to criticize the president’s address, including his references to hot-button topics such as climate change and gay rights, saying it was a “very appropriate speech for a person who shares those views to make.”
“That is kind of what he has talked about during the campaign, and he didn’t do it in a way that was offensive, I didn’t think so,” Mr. Sessions said. “He advocated what he believed in.”
But the lawmaker from Alabama chastised the president for his overall approach to governing by saying the Democrat “still advocates a larger, expansive government.”
“He believes that growth, prosperity, innovation, railroads are all done by the government, and I don’t,” he said.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state, the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, said the president’s “eloquent words must be matched with deliberate actions to restore country’s fiscal health” — suggesting a gulf between the two.
“In his inaugural address today, he said: ‘We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,’” she said. “Yet, it is almost four years since the [Democrat-controlled] Senate passed a budget. In the meantime, spending has raged out of control and America’s debt has ballooned.”
Mr. Obama’s second inauguration lacked the electric enthusiasm of his first, when an estimated 1.8 million people jammed onto the Mall to witness the swearing-in of the nation’s first black president. But Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, said he was still plenty impressed with the crowd, which an inauguration official estimated to be at least 1 million.
“The people who were saying that there would not be so many people, I mean we looked all the way down the Mall — and it was packed. You know, all the way,” Mr. Durbin said. “This is a president who will never run for office again.”
David Axelrod, a former senior White House adviser to Mr. Obama and senior strategist for his 2012 re-election campaign, said it’s understandable that the president’s second inauguration didn’t stoke the same level of excitement as his first because “there is a difference when you are brand new.”
“I think the country likes this president. I think they support this president, and now he has four years to finish the work that he has begun,” Mr. Axelrod said.
“We are in a much different place than we were four years ago when we hurtling toward a second Great Depression. We have a foundation upon which to build.”
• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this report.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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