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Editorial: Barack Obama, Chris Christie show how to find common ground

When Barack Obama and Chris Christie strolled down the boardwalk on the Jersey shore Tuesday, they replayed a message about how elected officials ought to operate. After Sandy hit, a progressive Democratic president and a conservative Republican governor set aside ideological and partisan differences to do what's best for the people they represent and, perhaps, what's best for them politically, too.

Senators resisting the routine formation of a committee to work out differences in the federal budgets the House and Senate passed earlier this year should follow their example. GOP senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky, should heed the veterans on their side of the aisle who counsel reining in their aversion to compromise so the government can function.

Republicans have legitimately criticized the Senate's Democratic majority for failing to pass a budget since 2009. That failing helped set the stage for the government's descent into crisis management, with spending deals inked only under threat of defaulting on the nation's obligations or tumbling off a fiscal cliff. Now that the Senate has done what they demanded, Republicans should do their part so Congress can complete its most basic responsiblity: enacting a 2014 budget.

That won't end the ideological wars. The philosophical and policy differences dividing Democrats and Republicans -- and even dividing the GOP itself -- are deep and enduring. But those differences should be fought with the goal of reaching workable compromises, not seized upon as excuses to endlessly repeat cycles of paralysis and crisis. The latter approach results in eleventh-hour deals that break the impasse of the moment but ignore big problems, such as finding ways to rebuild crumbling ports and bridges and to shore up the finances of Social Security and Medicare.

Obama and Christie's recent stroll was political theater. But their cooperation after Sandy was good government.