Obama Invites GOP Leaders to White House; McConnell Remains Defiant

Saying he got the message from voters, President Obama invited Republican and Democratic leaders of Congress to the White House after he returns from his trip to Asia to discuss the economy, tax cuts and unemployment insurance.

Following a Cabinet meeting, Obama told reporters he invited presumptive House Speaker John Boehner and top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell to meet with him on Nov. 18. The meeting is also to include current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The president said he wants the bipartisan meeting to be a substantive discussion on the economy. He also wants the Senate to pass a nuclear-arms treaty with Russia during an upcoming lame-duck session.

"I think it's clear that the voters sent a message, which is, they want us to focus on the economy and jobs and moving this country forward," the president said. "They're concerned about making sure that taxpayer money is not wasted, and they want to change the tone here in Washington, where the two parties are coming together and focusing on the people's business as opposed to scoring political points."

McConnell, who spoke at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, caught flak for saying after Tuesday's election that his primary objective now is to convince voters to remove Obama from office in 2012.

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Acknowledging the conflict that followed, McConnell said Thursday that aside from repealing and replacing the health care law, Republicans' primary legislative goals are to end bailouts, cut spending and shrink the size and scope of government.

"The only way to do all these things it is to put someone in the White House who won’t veto any of these things. We can hope the president will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday’s election. But we can't plan on it," he said.

McConnell said Republicans will provide a firewall to Democrats trying to raise taxes on any American "especially in the middle of a recession."

"We will loudly oppose future stimulus bills that only stimulate the deficit and fight any further job-killing regulations," he said. "We will fight tooth and nail on behalf of Americans struggling to find and create jobs."

"The formula is simple, really," he said. "When the administration agrees with the American people, we will agree with the administration. If the administration wants cooperation, it will have to begin to move in our direction."

The administration appears to be moving in the Republican direction on one issue: the Bush tax cuts.

White House chief spokesman Robert Gibbs said Thursday that Obama is open to some kind of compromise on the Bush tax cuts. Republicans want to extend them for all Americans, including the wealthy, while Obama favors limiting them to individuals making $200,000 and less and families earning $250,000 and less.

Obama is willing to extend tax cuts for all Americans for one or two years, Gibbs said.

While it remains to be seen whether both sides can work together on other issues, the president sounded an optimistic tone in his remarks.

"People are still catching their breath from the election. The dust is still settling," Obama said. "But the one thing I'm absolutely certain of is the American people don't want us just standing still. They don't want us engaged in gridlock. They want us to do the people's business, partly because they understand that the world is not standing still."

Boehner on Thursday released his new leadership document, "Pillars of a New Majority," which compiles five major speeches he gave earlier this year as Republicans geared up to seize a majority in the House.

In the foreword, Boehner writes that Obama has to decide "whether he will heed the will of the people and work with us to address their concerns, or continue on a path the people have rejected."

"If he joins us in listening to the people and acknowledges their demand for smaller, more accountable government, much can be achieved," he writes.

While Obama was clearly humbled by Tuesday's devastating setback, he still struck a defiant tone at a White House press conference Wednesday.

"No one party will be able to dictate where we go from here," he said in a clear warning to Republicans that he won't simply bow to their demands for a sharply conservative switch in economic policy.