Published November 09, 2006
WASHINGTON – President Bush spent Thursday hosting the old and new leadership of Congress, trying to rally support and find common ground to push through pending legislation on issues such as the War on Terror, homeland security and energy.
"I would call it a very constructive and very friendly conversation," Bush said of his lunch meeting with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her top deputy, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland.
"All three of us recognize that when you win, you have a responsibility to do the best you can for the country," Bush said. "I was pleased with a wide-ranging discussion about important issues facing America.
"The congresswoman's party won but the challenges still remain, so therefore we're going to work. … We won't agree on every issue but we do agree we love America equally. We're concerned about the future of this country and we'll do our very best" to address problems, Bush added.
Pelosi, who said she is "very excited" at the prospect of becoming the first woman speaker of the House, described the White House meeting with Bush as "very productive," adding that "we both extended the hand of friendship, of partnership" to solve problems facing the country.
"I look forward to working in a confidence-building way ... recognizing we will have our differences and we will debate them ... but we will do so in a way that gets results for the American people," the California lawmaker said.
Pelosi also stressed that as speaker, she would represent the views and ideas of "all" the House, not just the Democratic Party, in her conversations with the White House.
"We've made history, now we have to make progress and I look forward to working with the president to do just that," she said.
Earlier, Bush had breakfast with House and Senate Republican leaders before meeting with his Cabinet and then hosting Pelosi at lunch.
What was on the menu? "For the president, it's probably a little bit of crow," presidential counselor Dan Bartlett told CBS' "Early Show."
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the incoming majority leader next Congress, will get his own meeting and lunch with Bush on Friday.
The next few weeks are "going to be busy ones," Bush said before his lunch with Pelosi, since he wants Congress to finish several bills before ending its legislative session this year. He called on lawmakers to pass spending bills with "fiscal discipline," and to complete work on terrorism surveillance legislation, a bipartisan energy bill, legislation that would allow the United States to cooperate with India on civilian nuclear technology and a trade measure that would recognize Vietnam as a member of the World Trade Organization.
Bush said it's his administration's and lawmakers' responsibility to "put the elections behind us and work together on the great issues facing America.
Although they've traded barbs many times over the past few years, Bush and Pelosi are making nice in an effort to show voters that things can get done in Washington, despite the government being divided along party lines.
"The American people expect us to rise above partisan differences and my administration will do its part," the president said before the lunch.
On Iraq, Bush reiterated his stance that that country is the "central front" in the War on Terror.
"Whatever party we come from, we all have the responsibility" to make sure American troops have everything they need to get the job done. He also said he's open to ideas on how to get Iraq on its feet faster so that the United States can eventually reduce its presence there.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said both parties have talked about lowering the partisanship since problems that existed before Election Day still exist now.
"Obviously there will be areas in which we disagree," Snow said, adding that less than two days after a big election, Democrats are making adjustments.
The president is open to compromise, Snow said, but Democrats will have to make the transition from policy points of a campaign to legislation that can work.
This tone of reconciliation comes after some sharp rhetoric between Bush and Pelosi.
The president has mocked the California Democrat as "a secret admirer" of tax cuts and an opponent of measures crucial to keeping Americans safe, warning that "terrorists win and America loses" if her Democrats prevailed on Election Day.
In the past, Pelosi has sharp in her criticism of Bush.
"Oblivious, in denial, dangerous," she said of him in early September, referring to the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. The president "is an incompetent leader — in fact he's not a leader," Pelosi said in 2004, referring to his Iraq policies.
"'Stay the course' is not a strategy, it's a slogan, and we need more than that," she said in June in a jab at how Bush once described his approach to the war.
Bush rarely referred to Pelosi by name. But in speeches during the campaign he made "the person who wants to be speaker of the House" the poster child for all he saw wrong with Democrats.
Noting that she voted against renewing the anti-terrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, creating a Homeland Security Department, authorizing a warrantless wiretapping program and questioning terrorists in the way he had proposed, the president said, "Given the record of Democrats on our nation's security, I understand why they want to change the subject."
On Wednesday, the president dismissed the bitter language as nothing more than campaign-trail heat.
"I understand when campaigns end, and I know when governing begins," he said.
Meanwhile, in another peace offering, Bush and a host of other administration officials called Democratic campaign chairman Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York on Wednesday to congratulated him for heading up a successful midterm election effort. The calls were characterized by aides as cordial and focused on the need to work together, and included messages from Bush, Snow, Karl Rove and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson.
One Senate aide said Schumer joked with Rove that people called him and and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the House Democratic campaign chair, the "Karl Roves of the Democrats."
Schumer said he didn't know if that's a "good thing" or a "bad thing."
To that, Rove joked that it depends on who's doing the name calling.
FOX News' Liza Porteus, Trish Turner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.