- The Washington Times - Friday, November 10, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

President Bush opened the Oval Office yesterday for a second day in a row to Democrats who will rule Capitol Hill next year, and both sides promised cooperation.

Mr. Bush invited Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat, Richard J. Durbin, to his office for a nearly hourlong meeting aimed at charting a way forward in a government to be divided between a Republican White House and a Democratic Congress.

The president had lunch a day earlier with House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, expected be the next speaker of the House.

“My attitude about this is that there is a great opportunity for us to show the country that Republicans and Democrats are equally as patriotic and equally concerned about the future, and that we can work together,” Mr. Bush said, appearing with Mr. Reid and Mr. Durbin before reporters in the Oval Office afterward.

The senators agreed. “The only way to move forward is with bipartisanship and openness, and to get some results,” Mr. Reid said. “And we’ve made a commitment, the four of us here today, that’s what we’re going to do.”

Vice President Dick Cheney, who completed the foursome, did not speak in public.

Mr. Bush found common ground in the Western roots he shares with Mr. Reid, who is from Nevada. “We tend to speak the same language, pretty plainspoken people, which should bode well for our relationship,” the president said.

But one of the president’s first public acts after his party’s losses in Tuesday’s elections was to press for an aggressive agenda while Congress remains in Republican hands for the next two months.

On his list are at least two items deeply controversial to Democrats: legalizing his terrorist surveillance program, stalled in the Senate because of a Democratic filibuster threat, and confirming John R. Bolton to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, which Democrats have said is unlikely to happen.

Mr. Durbin had said on Thursday, “For a Republican Congress to have gone forward for two years and produced so little, and then for the president to come up with a huge agenda for the next two weeks, you have to ask him, ‘Why didn’t you use some of the time you spent arguing on some less important issues before?’ ”

White House press secretary Tony Snow said both the eavesdropping and Bolton-nomination issues were crucial, and that Democrats should see their merits.

“Bipartisanship works both ways,” Mr. Snow said. “I don’t think you should look at these as necessarily provocative.”

Both Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid complimented Mr. Bush after the meetings.

“I think we can find a way to have agreement on” the eavesdropping bill while making clear that would involve changes, such as adding some form of judicial review, Mrs. Pelosi said.

Jim Manley, spokesman for Mr. Reid, said it was important that Mr. Bush was reaching out, noting that the senator and the president probably had not met since the summer.


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