EDITORIAL: Congress, Obama should ask: Can we all get along?

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This month’s congressional elections gave Republicans control of the Senate to go with control of the House that they already enjoyed. But they still must contend with a Democratic president.

All of which brings up a question similar to the one Rodney King once famously asked: Can they all get along?

The good news for the American public is that history shows us the U.S. economy has generally done quite well when Congress is controlled by the party opposite of the president, as business leaders don’t worry about much serious regulatory legislation being enacted under such circumstances. And indeed the stock market has already risen considerably since the elections.

With the president still holding the power of the veto, it’s often the case that not much serious legislation in any category gets enacted under such circumstances.

But Bill Clinton, the last Democratic president, was able to push through meaningful welfare reform and balance the budget while working with a Republican Congress six of the eight years he was in office.

In a public appearance Sept. 8, Clinton recalled using humor to forge a friendship with Republican Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and said that helped them be able to work together better.

Clinton was one of the best consensus builders in the federal government since Henry Clay 150 years before him.

Unfortunately, President Barack Obama does not seem to possess that same ability but is by nature defiant and combative when dealing with those who disagree with him on major issues. And the same can be said for new Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, so it’s kind of hard to see him and Obama forging a friendship.

Obama’s announcement Thursday that he would use executive orders to bypass Congress and alter immigration policy didn’t help foster a spirit of cooperation with Congress. A year ago Obama himself said he did not have the power to make such changes, though Ronald Reagan and George H. Bush had also used executive orders to change immigration policy.

With the new combination in the federal government, many pundits have suggested the only major legislation we can expect to see passed in the next two years is approval of completing the Keystone oil pipeline and tax reform.

We have editorialized in favor of the former, and the tax code could definitely use some tweaking, as some corporations are now trying to move their headquarters out of the United States because their tax rates would be lower elsewhere.

Those two things may be enough to keep America going strong for the next two years. But if that is all that is accomplished, then it’s ironic that this month’s elections cost North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan her job, as she was one of the few Democrats who had supported the Keystone pipeline and had voted with many Republicans on tax and budget issues in the past.

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