WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama said he's ready to work with lawmakers in both parties in a "spirit of common cause" to address major issues as Congress gets back to business after the Arizona shooting that brought legislative debate to a virtual standstill.
"We carry on because we have to," Obama said in his radio and Internet address yesterday. "After all, this is still a time of great challenges for us to solve." He cited the need to create more jobs, strengthen the economy and reduce deficits - all issues, he said, that can be tackled in a "spirit of common cause with members of Congress from both parties."
But first, Obama will have to wait for lawmakers to take up a more contentious issue: repeal of his health care law.
The House has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to undo the law, setting the stage for partisan confrontation. The move is expected to succeed at the hands of the new Republican majority in the House, but not expected to pass in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
Obama praised the sense of community displayed in Congress in the days since the shooting in Tucson, Ariz. On Jan. 8., Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in the head and remains in intensive care. Obama noted members of Congress rose to honor her and other victims of the shooting.
"It was a moment that reminded us of who we really are - and how much we depend on one another," he said. "While we can't escape our grief for those we've lost, we carry on now, mindful of those truths."
The theme echoed the president's remarks Wednesday night in Tucson at a memorial service for the victims. The speech was a eulogy and a call for public discourse that heals, not wounds. Obama faces another challenging address in 10 days - his State of the Union speech to a joint session of Congress in which he is expected to outline his remedies for the economy.
Rep. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a Republican colleague of Giffords, also invoked the shooting in delivering the weekly Republican address. He alluded to his work with Giffords on bipartisan legislation to make the House more open and accountable and took note that Giffords was shot during a constituent outreach event outside a shopping center, what he called "a fundamental duty of a lawmaker."
"And so it is our duty to uphold our oath, to listen and to represent," Flake said. "We will not let this inhumane act cow us into doing otherwise."