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Senate leaders eye more compromise this year

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (L) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on May 3, 2011
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (L) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are pictured on May 3, 2011. US Senate leaders put aside their partisan bickering Tuesday as they kicked off the first session of President Barack Obama's second term by seek

US Senate leaders put aside their partisan bickering Tuesday as they kicked off the first session of President Barack Obama's second term by seeking to "do things differently" to avoid gridlock.

Congress faces tremendous challenges in the year ahead, primarily in the need to address the country's fiscal woes, and lawmakers remain bitterly divided over how to rein in the debt, cut spending and formulate a plan that prioritizes the use of American taxpayer dollars.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell both took to the floor urging colleagues to draw inspiration from Obama's Monday inauguration as they brace for contentious votes that lie ahead.

"The last Congress was too often characterized by sharp political divides -- divides that hampered efforts to foster success for all Americans," said Reid, the top Democrat in Congress.

"I'm hopeful and cautiously optimistic that the 113th Congress will be characterized not by our divisions, but by our renewed commitment to cooperation and compromise."

He pointed to issues that could lead to tough legislative battles in the months ahead, saying balance and cooperation would be needed to amend the nation's immigration system, strengthen schools and balance "the right to bear arms with the right of every child to grow up safe from gun violence."

"Those principles will be our North Star," he said.

McConnell too called for a toning down of the partisanship that has gripped the chamber for the last two years, saying an inauguration is a chance for "new beginnings" on Capitol Hill.

"Presidential inaugurations are always a time for the country to come together," McConnell said, although he could not resist inserting a jab at his rivals, who he said focused more on "political consideration" than putting the nation on a sound financial footing.

"Democrats have put off the hard stuff until now, and our problems have only gotten worse," he said.

"A second term presents the opportunity to do things differently, and in the Senate that means a return to regular order.

"If we work together and strive to avoid some of the bad habits that have developed around here, I truly believe that we will be able to achieve the kind of solutions that have eluded us for the past four years."

As an example he suggested that "the Senate should quickly respond" if the House passes, as expected, a bill up for a vote Wednesday that suspends the debt limit for three months.

The Democratic leadership has said it would consider the measure.

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