|President Obama: Doug Mills/NY Times|
WASHINGTON — President Obama was looking ahead to a busy week when he wandered to the back of Air Force One on Sunday on the way home from Japan. He was planning to play host to Republican leaders on Thursday, and told reporters he expected they would “want to engage constructively.” And he felt “reasonably good,” he said, that the Senate would ratify his arms control treaty with Russia.
The Thursday meeting is now off — pushed back to Nov. 30 after the Republicans complained that the White House had not consulted them about their schedule — and the arms treaty, which faces stiff Republican opposition, is in jeopardy. Two weeks after a midterm election that both sides interpreted as a mandate to change the way Washington does business, little, it seems, has changed.
Just how little was underscored on Wednesday when the two parties finished electing their leaders for the new Congress — the very same people, including Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who will go from speaker to the House minority leader, who have spent the past two years at one another’s throats.
For Mr. Obama, who has promised “midcourse corrections,” the developments are a stark reminder of just how difficult it will be to change the dynamic in Washington. While he was in Asia, top aides back in Washington sketched out their postelection agenda — and came up with a relatively narrow list of items that might win Republican cooperation, including revamping President George W. Bush’s landmark education bill and extending certain business tax credits. The White House also sees an opportunity to work with Republicans to cut the pet projects known as earmarks. Dan Pfeiffer, Mr. Obama’s communications director, described the White House as “hopeful but not naïve.”
But other Democrats say the president must come up with an aggressive strategy to put himself back in the driver’s seat. If he cannot pass legislation, they say, he must use his executive authority and the force of his office to advance his agenda in ways that do not require Republican cooperation. The Center for American Progress, a research group with close ties to the administration, put out a report this week called “The Power of the President” that sought to identify areas where Mr. Obama can bypass Congress.
(Click here to read the full story on the NY Times website.)