There was no bourbon on the table, but President Obama sat down to lunch Friday with incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other 15 congressional leaders to seek cooperation.
At the start of the luncheon in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, Mr. Obama told reporters that Americans are “frustrated by gridlock.”
“What we’ve seen now for a number of cycles is that the American people just want to see work done here in Washington,” Mr. Obama said. “They’re frustrated by the gridlock. They’d like to see more cooperation, and I think all of us have a responsibility, me in particular, to try to make that happen.”
Among those at the table were Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, about whom the president joked that he would like to share a bourbon; Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican; outgoing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada; House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California; and Vice President Joseph R. Biden.
Mr. Boehner’s office, in a synopsis of the meeting, said the speaker pointed to dozens of bills that have already cleared the House to boost U.S. energy production and cut some of the president’s new regulations, saying those are a starting point for trying to boost the economy.
And Mr. Boehner urged the president to back off his intent to to claim unilateral powers to grant legal status to illegal immigrants.
“The speaker warned that unilateral action by the president on executive amnesty will erase any chances of doing immigration reform and will also make it harder for Congress and the White House to work together successfully on other areas where there might otherwise be common ground,” Mr. Boehner’s office said in a statement.
In its own readout of the meeting the White House said the president rejected that entreaty and “reiterated his commitment to taking action” on immigration on his own.
Speaking before the meeting, Mr. Obama pledged to judge ideas without prejudice whether they came from a Republican or a Democrat.
“I’m going to be judging them based on whether or not they work,” he said.
The president said the lawmakers would discuss the Islamic State terrorist group and Ebola. He’s seeking a renewed authorization of military force for the fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Mr. Obama also pointed to a solid jobs report Friday and at work to be completed in the lame-duck session of Congress.
“There’s going to be some specific work we have to get done during the next several weeks before the new Congress commences, and my hope is that even as we enter into a new Congress, the previous Congress has an opportunity, still, to make progress on a whole bunch of fronts,” he said.
The participants dined on herb-crusted sea bass and grilled vegetables; a bibb lettuce and endive salad with toasted shallot dressing, and pumpkin tarts with vanilla whipped cream and candied ginger.
But no Wild Turkey.