At the very least, there's common ground on college football.
One week before he travels to the Capitol to deliver his State of the Union address, President Obama welcomed congressional leaders from both parties to the White House on Tuesday for the first major sit-down meeting since Republicans assumed control of the House and Senate. And though his differences with the GOP far outnumber their areas of agreement, the president began the morning meeting on safe turf.
"Having a college football playoff is clearly something that we can agree on," Obama said the morning after the Ohio State Buckeyes -- favorites of House Speaker John A. Boehner, who’s from suburban Cincinnati -- won the first championship in the new format. "I think it turned out pretty well, particularly for Ohio."
Football flattery aside, there were few expectations for any major legislative breakthroughs from the meeting. Both sides were expected to discuss possible areas of cooperation for the year ahead, and Obama ticked off trade, tax reform and an overhaul of the government bureaucracy as opportunities to work together.
“On each of these issues, I’m going to be listening to everybody around this table, and I’m hopeful that in the spirit of cooperation and putting America first, we can be in position where, at the end of this year, we’ll be able to look back and say we’re that much better off than we were when we started the year,” the president said.
As he did last week in speeches across the country, Obama highlighted positive economic trends and reiterated his view that 2015 could see even stronger growth.
"The key now is for us to work as a team to make sure whether we build on this progress," he said.
He also said that both parties should be able to agree on measures to improve cybersecurity, citing Monday’s hack of U.S. Central Command's Twitter account and the recent attacks on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
Still, there are indications that despite their stated hopes for consensus, the president and the GOP expect a year of combat.
In the meeting, coming a week after the new Congress convened, Boehner reiterated Republicans' commitment to roll back the president's immigration actions and urged him seek authorization for his strategy to combat Islamic State militants.
Before traveling to the White House, Boehner told reporters he intended to "make it clear to the president that we're listening to the American people," and said he hoped that Obama will "start to listen too."
Likewise, as the Senate begins formal debate on legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Republicans are fulfilling their commitment to pursue job-creating policies.
"When it comes to the bipartisan Keystone bill, it is hard to see a serious reason why President Obama would veto these jobs," he said.