- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 13, 2015

President Obama and Republican leaders left a White House meeting Tuesday vowing to work together, but neither side revealed any major legislative breakthroughs and many years-old political fights still divide the camps.

Tuesday marked the first formal meeting between Mr. Obama and congressional leaders since Republicans took full control on Capitol Hill this month as a result of the November midterm elections. The White House cast the meeting as an opportunity to find areas of common ground and avoid gridlock during the president’s final two years in office.

Although no specific compromises emerged, Mr. Obama and congressional Republicans said they were prepared to work together on economic growth, trade, corporate tax reform, combating terrorism and other issues. Cybersecurity, which the president has made a central focus in recent days, also appears to be something the two sides may be able to find agreement in the short term.

The issue has been an area of concern for years on Capitol Hill, but both Republicans and Democrats say much greater reforms are needed. The White House is counting on the fact that the recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures and Monday’s hacking of U.S. Central Command social media accounts may spur lawmakers to action.

“With the Sony attacks that took place, with the Twitter account that was hacked by Islamist jihadist sympathizers yesterday, it just goes to show how much more work we need to do, both public and private sector, to strengthen our cybersecurity,” the president said at the outset of the meeting. “I’ve talked to both [House Speaker John A. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] about this, and I think we agree that this is an area where we can work hard together and get some legislation done, and make sure that we are much more effective in protecting the American people from these kinds of cyberattacks.”

Mr. Obama already has put forth legislation that, among other things, would encourage more data-sharing between private companies and the federal government as part of a larger effort to fight hackers. Republicans have expressed openness to such proposals.

“After meeting with President Obama today, I continue to believe the best opportunity to move forward on a bipartisan legislative agenda starts with legislation to combat cyber threats,” said Sen. Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican, who attended the meeting.

Even as the two sides met, White House press secretary Josh Earnest cautioned against expecting any type of major legislative breakthroughs.

In fact, before and after the White House sit-down, both sides continued wrangling over the president’s executive action on immigration, the Keystone XL pipeline and a host of other issues.

Republican leaders expect that, despite promises to work with Mr. Obama on some issues, they will clash on others.

“Getting Congress back to work means working to pass legislation that’s good for jobs and the middle class. That’s why we’re focused on getting measures like this bipartisan infrastructure bill over to the president’s desk,” Mr. McConnell said Tuesday as he opened debate on a bill to approve Keystone — legislation the president has promised to veto.

“He may not sign everything we pass, but we’re getting Congress out of the business of protecting the president from good ideas. That’s our commitment,” he added.

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