WASHINGTON – Pledges of bipartisan cooperation rang from the Capitol to the White House, with newly empowered Democrats pledging Sunday to tone down their rhetoric and go about the people's business.
"I think the time has come, with the new elections having been completed and an old president, that we show the American people that we can govern," said Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid of Nevada, whose party swept the Republicans from congressional control last week.
President Bush's chief of staff, Josh Bolten, said he was encouraged by the bipartisan tone, based on White House meetings last week with Reid, who stands to become Senate majority leader, and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who's in line to be speaker.
"It's a big disappointment for us in the White House to have lost control of both Houses of Congress. But sometimes in adversity, there's opportunity, and hopefully we can take advantage of this opportunity and the bipartisan spirit that seems to prevail at least for the moment and get some good things done," Bolten said.
To be sure, deep-seated differences remain on issues such as John Bolton's nomination to be ambassador to the United Nations and demands by some Democrats that the Pentagon adopt a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. The GOP has expressed concerns about an expected blizzard of Democratic investigations of the Bush administration.
Reid, for one, said he wants congressional committees to reassert their oversight role of the executive branch.
"Oversight is not investigations," Reid cautioned. "There will be times, rare occasions, when these committees will have to offer subpoenas, but that will happen very infrequently."
Presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said Bush has the capacity to compromise during his final two years in office and proved he could work effectively with both parties when he was Texas governor.
"There is a way to cut through the partisan rhetoric, put this election behind us and have an opportunity to have a real dialogue without the partisan rhetoric and get some things done," Bartlett said.
Among the issues cited were increasing the minimum wage, protecting the Social Security system and overhauling immigration policy.
"Nobody's expecting that either side is going to compromise principle. We probably shouldn't," Bolten said. "But there is, I think, a lot of area for possible common ground."
He added, "There are going to be areas where we can't work together. But they don't need to contaminate the many areas where we can."