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Bush, Dems promise cooperation as Senate shifts

Story Highlights

• NEW: Sen. George Allen's concession speech makes Senate power shift final
• President Bush says he's open to new ideas on Iraq
Bush says he is open to suggestions on Iraq policy
Bush meets Democrats at White House, promises "new era of cooperation"
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush and top Democrats promised to get along Thursday -- the same day that a GOP Virginia senator's concession speech gave the opposition party the final seat they needed for total congressional control.

Sen. George Allen announced his defeat in Alexandria, Virginia, telling his supporters, "The Bible teaches us there is a time and place for everything, and today I called and congratulated Jim Webb."

Webb's win over Allen gives Democrats a 51-49 advantage in the Senate, counting two independents who have said they will caucus with the party. (Full story)

Earlier in the day, Bush lunched with two top Democrats, emerging with a promise that Democrats and the White House would work in tandem over the next two years.

"We won't agree on every issue," Bush said after dining with House speaker-to-be Rep. Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer. "But we do agree that we love America equally, that we're concerned about the future of this country, and that we will do our very best to address big problems." (Watch what "big problems" the president addressed after lunching with Pelosi -- 1:29 Video)

Pelosi agreed, saying she looks forward to "working in a confidence-building way with the president."

"We've made history. Now we have to make progress," she said.

Hoyer added that it's clear Americans hope "that we will work together -- we being Republicans and Democrats, the president and the Congress -- to solve the problems and make their lives better, more secure and our country more safe."

Before the lunch, Bush told reporters Thursday that he respected the results of this week's elections that propelled Democrats to power and said he was "open to any idea or suggestion" that will help the U.S. achieve its goals in Iraq.

"Whatever party we come from we all have a responsibility to ensure that these troops have the resources and support they need to prevail," he said.

Bush was flanked by his Cabinet members, with whom he met earlier in the day. He met with outgoing GOP leaders earlier in the day and planned to meet Friday with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Whip Richard Durbin, he said. (Watch Bush urge his party to "put the elections behind us" -- 3:10 Video)

Bush said he was eager to discuss with Democrats "the way forward for our country" and has instructed his Cabinet to provide the new congressional leaders with any information they need to do their jobs.

"The American people expect us to rise above partisan differences, and my administration will do its part," he said.

The president also outlined some issues he'd like to see Congress address before year's end. (Transcript)

Among those issues are the federal spending bill, the Terrorist Surveillance Act of 2006, bipartisan energy legislation, trade legislation and an agreement with India on civilian nuclear technology.

The Terrorist Surveillance Act is likely to face the stiffest opposition, as both parties have criticized the measure that would authorize the administration's surveillance program, which allows wiretapping on phone calls between people in the United States and suspected terrorists overseas.

On Iraq, Bush said, "I'm open to any idea or suggestion that will help us achieve our goals of defeating the terrorists and ensuring that Iraq's democratic government succeeds."

The meetings with Democratic leaders come two days after the Democrats beat Republicans in the House elections and as power shifted in the Senate with Allen's concession in a hotly contested Virginia race. (Watch to see what Bush's first bipartisan act was after the election -- 2:44)

Word of Webb's win led Democrats to celebrate outside the Capitol, as Sen. Reid of Nevada told a crowd that the Democrats' win in the House and Senate showed it is "time for a change."

"It's time for bipartisanship. It's time for open government, transparency, and it's a time for results," he said.

Added Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York, "Will we stand up to the president when we think he is wrong? Yes. But our real mission is to work together and help the American family and make a better America, and we pledge today that we will never lose sight of that, our true mission."

In what the president has called a "new era of cooperation," Bush is already looking for areas of common ground with Democrats. (Watch top Senate Democrat Harry Reid discuss the future -- 2:33 Video)

"We can work together over the next two years," the president said Wednesday.

But he added that he knows Pelosi is "not going to abandon her principles, and I'm not going to abandon mine."

Pelosi, who would be the first female House speaker, told CNN: "Democrats are ready to lead, prepared to govern and absolutely willing to work in a bipartisan way." (Watch Pelosi talk of breaking the 'marble ceiling' -- 12:45 Video)

She has previously said a Democratic-led Congress will not be a rubber stamp for the White House. On Wednesday, she said she hoped there would be cooperation with congressional investigations -- part of the checks-and-balances system built into the Constitution.

Pelosi also has said that in the first 100 hours of her speakership she will push for action implementing all 9/11 Commission recommendations on national security, raising the minimum wage to $7.25, eliminating corporate subsidies for oil companies, allowing the government to negotiate Medicare drug prices, imposing new restrictions on lobbyists, cutting interest rates on college loans and supporting embryonic stem-cell research.

On Wednesday, she repeated a call for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to go, and just hours later the president announced his loyal aide was resigning -- a decision Bush said was made before the election.

"The president got the message, thank heavens," Pelosi said. "I think it signals a new change, I hope for the better, in Iraq."

Bush nominated Robert Gates to fill Rumsfeld's vacancy. Gates is an ex-CIA chief who also worked on the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan panel that is making recommendations to Bush on how to proceed in Iraq. (Full story)

CNN's John King, Dana Bash and Ed Henry contributed to this report.

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House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, left, House speaker-to-be Rep. Nancy Pelosi and President Bush confer Thursday. All agreed they must work together.



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