Perhaps surprisingly, Mr. Obama has found common ground with Republicans several times in the six months since they took control of the Senate and added to their House majority. He signed a bipartisan measure imposing new restrictions on national security surveillance, and, after initially threatening a veto, accepted bipartisan legislation giving Congress a role in evaluating any nuclear deal with Iran.
White House officials see room for further consensus with Republicans on a large public works program of road, bridge and other construction projects, as well as legislation to overhaul the criminal justice system to address what both parties see as excessive incarceration.
While they would not say so out loud, White House officials found it easier to work with Congress on trade now that Republicans control of both houses. Mr. Obama and his team saw Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, as challenging to work with when he was in the majority, and his opposition could have made it impossible to pass the trade authority measure last year.
By contrast, Obama aides have privately praised Republicans like Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader; Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio; and Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, saying they were straightforward and professional during the trade debate. And Mr. Obama invested more energy in lobbying for trade authority, which would grant him enhanced negotiating power, than he had in perhaps any initiative since Democrats lost the House in 2010.
“The last six months, working on this, they’ve really shown a willingness for the first time to work across the aisle, and because of that, this key economic measure has been salvaged,” said former Gov. John Engler of Michigan, a Republican who is president of the Business Roundtable. “It would have been catastrophic if it had been defeated.”