ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE (Reuters) - President Barack Obama appealed to Republican congressional leaders on Tuesday to put politics aside and work to revive the U.S. economy.
Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on his way back to Washington from a vacation in Hawaii, Obama said “we’ve started to make good progress” on the economy, adding: “I expect to build on that progress when I get back.”
In Washington, newly empowered Republicans in Congress were preparing challenges to Obama.
Republicans made strong gains in November’s U.S. congressional elections. They are set to take control of the House of Representatives from Obama’s Democrats and increase their numbers in the Senate, with the 2012 U.S. presidential election on the horizon.
A senior Republican aide said on Monday the House planned to vote on January 12 on Republican legislation to repeal the president’s healthcare law approved last year, and predicted it would pass in the House.
Although Republicans will control the House by 242 seats to 193, the Democrats retain control of the Senate by 53 to 47 and are likely to block efforts to repeal the healthcare law.
Even if the repeal fails, Republicans will hold considerable sway over the government purse strings and try to use that power to deny the Obama administration’s requests on financing to implement the healthcare law.
Republicans in Congress could put the budget squeeze on two powerful agencies, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, to slow Obama’s Wall Street reforms passed last year.
“You know, I think that there’s going to be politics. That’s what happens in Washington -- that they (Republicans) are going to play to their base for a certain period of time,” Obama said aboard Air Force One.
“But I‘m pretty confident that they’re going to recognize that our job is to govern and make sure that we are delivering jobs for the American people and that we’re creating a competitive economy for the 21st century, not just for this generation but for the next one.”
Obama appealed to the two top Republicans in Congress, incoming House Speaker John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. McConnell has said his main objective is to deny Obama a second term as president.
“And so my expectation, my hope is that John Boehner and Mitch McConnell will realize that there will be plenty of time to campaign for 2012 in 2012, and that our job this year is to make sure that we build on the recovery,” Obama added.
Reporting by Jeff Mason aboard Air Force One and Will Dunham in Washington