Obama hosts Dem, GOP leaders from House, Senate for first sit-down since new Congress convened

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, huddling with House and Senate leaders for the first time this year, urged lawmakers Tuesday to stake out areas of compromise, including on trade, tax reform and cybersecurity.

“I’m hopeful that with a spirit of co-operation and putting America first, we can be in a position where at the end of this year, we can look back and say we’re that much better off than we were when we started the year,” Obama said. He was flanked by House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the two Republicans now in charge on Capitol Hill.

Yet Obama’s sunny spin on Washington’s new power dynamic was at odds with much of what has played out in the week since the new Congress was seated. Republicans have taken aim at core elements of the president’s agenda, including immigration and health care, and the White House has responded with a flurry of veto threats.

Still, both sides have at least paid lip service to the prospect of compromising on issues where they have common interests. Republicans have been far more supportive than many Democrats of Obama’s efforts to finalize the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement. And both parties have discussed the need to overhaul the nation’s complex tax code.

On Tuesday, Obama identified cybersecurity as a third potential area of compromise. He renewed his call for Congress to pass legislation encouraging the private sector to share cyberthreat data with the government and shield companies from lawsuits if they opt to do so.