WASHINGTON – President Bush congratulated top Senate Democratic leaders for winning a majority in Congress during this year's midterm elections at a White House lunch meeting on Friday.
"The elections are over, the problems haven't gone away. I assured the senators that we will cooperate as closely as we can to solve common problems," Bush said from the Oval Office.
Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, soon-to-be Senate majority leader, and Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, likely Senate majority whip, thanked Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney for hosting them to promote bipartisan cooperation.
Durbin took special note of Bush and Cheney's blue ties — linking them to the symbolic color of Democrats.
"I do want to say 'thanks' personally to the president and vice president for their conciliatory gesture by wearing blue ties today," Durbin said. "From our side, we think that is a symbolic indication that we're off to a good start."
"I was hoping you would notice that," Bush responded.
The political leaders discussed their agendas for about 45 minutes, including the War on Terror and Iraq.
"The only way to move forward is through bipartisanship and openness and to get some results," Reid said.
On Thursday, Bush met with Reid's and Durbin's House counterparts, putative speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her chief deputy, Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the man who wants to be the second in command next session despite a challenge from Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania.
Bush described the conversation as "constructive and very friendly."
"All three of us recognize that when you win, you have a responsibility to do the best you can for the country," Bush said in an Oval Office photo opportunity with the House Democrats.
"The elections are now behind us, and the congresswoman's party won. But the challenges still remain. And, therefore, we're going to work together to address those challenges in a constructive way. We won't agree on every issue. But we do agree that we love America equally, that we're concerned about the future of this country, and that we will do our very best to address big problems," he 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"
"We both extended the hand of friendship, of partnership, to solve the problems facing our country," she said. "I look forward to working in a confidence-building way with the president, recognizing that we have our differences and we will debate them and that is what our founders intended. But we will do so in a way that gets results for the American people."
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.
Although they've traded barbs many times over the past few years, Bush and congressional Democrats are publicly making nice in an effort to show voters that things can get done in Washington.
But while Reid, D-Nev., and other Democratic leaders on Thursday called for unity and bipartisanship, they still offered up some stinging words for Republicans.
"This time for new direction has given us an opportunity, a chance to prove to the American people that we can work with the Republicans. They've set a very bad example in not working with us. We're not following in that example. We're reaching out to them," Reid said.
"We faced during the course of this campaign a lot of critics and a lot of challengers who tried to divide America, who tried to divide us one against another, who preached the campaign of fear and division. Those voices were rejected on Tuesday night," Durbin added.
Republicans are investigating why they were rejected on Tuesday night, but some say the resounding defeat for the GOP was attributable not to a lack of Republican ideas, but to the failure of many in the party to stand by them.
"Our ideas didn't get beat; in fact, we did. And we have to look at what's good about our ideas and what was wrong with us," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo. "We don't want to become, again, the defenders of business as usual."
"As you know, (voters) sent a pretty clear message," said Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz. "I don't think it was a message approving a Democrat agenda because the Democrats didn't lay out an agenda."
The main challenge that lies ahead for both sides is finding common ground on Iraq, the place Bush calls the central front in the War on Terror and Democrats say is a diversion from other pressing problems abroad.
Bush said he is "open to any idea or suggestion that will help us achieve our goals of defeating the terrorists and ensuring that Iraq's democratic government succeeds."
Asked whether her preference is to win the war or just end it, Pelosi said those are not the options.
"This isn't a war to win, its a situation to be solved, and you define winning any way you want, but you must solve the problem," she said.
One way Democrats are avoiding going down the path of destruction is by saying in no uncertain terms that they do not plan to bring up impeachment charges against the president for his handling of the Iraq war.
In this campaign, there was an orchestrated right-wing effort to distort my position on impeachment," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich. "Impeachment is off the table. To be sure, I have substantial concerns about the way this administration has abused its authority, but impeachment would not be good for the American people. The country does not want or need any more paralyzed partisan government — it wants a check and balance and real progress on the issues that matter to their lives."
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FOX News' Jim Angle contributed to this report.