President Barack Obama and other White House officials (such as Communications Director Jennifer Palmieri and Press Secretary Josh Earnest) have been quick to characterize Tuesday’s Republican Election Night victories as the beginning of a period of Republicans being “partners in governing” the United States. For example, at his post-election press conference on Wednesday, President Obama said:
… So I look forward to Republicans putting forward their governing agenda…. I am very eager to hear Republican ideas for what they think we can do together over the next couple of years…. I’m looking forward to them putting forward a very specific agenda in terms of what they would like to accomplish…. And what we’re going to make sure that we do is to reach out to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, who are now running both chambers in Congress, and find out what their agenda is. And my hope is, is that they’ve got some specific things they want to do that correspond with some things that we want to get done…. They’re the majority. They need to present their agenda.
This is an important Democratic frame, because, up to now, the Republicans have acted as a minority party even though they held a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. However, President Obama tried this “shared responsibility” frame once before, after Republicans took over the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010, and the frame did not stick. The question is whether Republicans will be held responsible for co-governing now that they will also run the U.S. Senate.