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Friday, 02 Jan 2015 01:22 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

obama-cooperationPresident Barack Obama has a resolution for the New Year and the Republican-controlled Congress convening next week in Washington: Cooperate more and use executive actions less.

Obama has already used some quite extensive executive actions, including a decree on immigration reform, reports The Wall Street Journal, but he still has some top agenda items left to achieve during his last two years in office.

Some senior administration officials say that those priorities might stand a better chance of happening without Democrats in charge of the Senate.

But the six years since Obama first took office have been contentious ones, and while Republican leaders say they want to work with the president, aides told The Journal that the leaders don’t believe he’ll compromise with them.

Even if the two sides can work out agreements, GOP lawmakers are skeptical that Obama will deliver enough votes from his party to get the bills passed.

“If he’s going to run around the country talking about things that have no chance of passing rather than running around the country focusing on the areas where we agree, he’s not going to be very productive,” Don Stewart, deputy chief of staff to incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said. “We just had an election on his policies.”

Obama and McConnell discussed several areas of compromise during a meeting after the November midterm elections, and the president plans to leave room for negotiations by only drawing lines when it comes to major issues, including rollbacks to Obamacare or immigration, The Journal reports.

But Republicans plan to bring up several key issues right away, including the long-awaited approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, which Obama is expected to reject. In recent weeks, he has argued that the structure will pose environmental and economic risks.

“It’s very good for Canadian oil companies, and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers,” Obama said last month.

Rejecting the pipeline will likely create a huge political fight, though, at a time when the president is looking for some cooperation from Congress.

White House spokesman Eric Schultz said there are bound to be areas in which the White House and Congress won’t be cooperating. Still, “those disagreements should not interfere with the many areas of bipartisan interest where we can work together to get things done for the American people,” he said.

There are several areas where Obama and the GOP might come to a compromise, White House officials said, including a long-sought corporate tax code overhaul, infrastructure funding, and trade pacts.

But even with plans to cooperate, Obama is facing a Congress that will likely continue to push back against him on several items, such as his executive action on immigration.

Further, the president is trying to win confirmation for his nominees for defense secretary and attorney general at the same time Senate Republicans plan investigations into the Internal Revenue Service, the Dodd-Frank Law, and other agencies and policies.

The White House will need bipartisan proposals and support to succeed with tax legislation, as well as a coalition of Republicans to help pass trade legislation that some more liberal lawmakers are against.

Obama also expects to use his veto pen more this year than he has previously in his presidency when negotiations fail.

“I haven’t used the veto pen very often since I’ve been in office,” Obama said in an NPR interview last week. “Now, I suspect, there are going to be some times where I’ve got to pull that pen out.”

He’s also expected to push a more economic-driven agenda this year, sources said, and to emphasize the successes that have come so far.

But most Americans are skeptical that the president and Congress will cooperate this year at all. According to an Associated Press-GIK poll last month, only 13 percent of believe the leaders of the two parties will work together, and 86 percent doubt it’s possible.

And the doubts cross party lines, with fewer than 1 in 5 Democrats and independents, and just 1 in 10 Republicans, convinced that Obama and Congress can break the gridlock in the nation’s capital.

Related Stories:

James Baker’s Advice to Obama, GOP: Cooperate
Pat Buchanan: GOP Win No Mandate For ‘Kumbaya’ With Obama

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