Washington (CNN) - A new political reality hits Washington next week, with the first split Congress since 2002 raising questions about whether the bipartisan cooperation of the recently concluded lame-duck session can continue.
Conventional wisdom says the shift from one party controlling both chambers, as Democrats have done since 2006, to the GOP taking over the House and holding a stronger minority stake in the Senate means increased partisan impasse over the next two years.
But that same conventional wisdom got turned on its head after November 2, when the electoral "shellacking" delivered to President Barack Obama and the Democrats was followed by one of the most productive post-election congressional conclusions in history.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs attributed the new bipartisanship of the post-election period to the Republican gains in the November vote.
"There was a responsibility of government that I think the Republicans got in the November elections and they began to understand that responsibility a little bit more in this lame-duck session than they had in the previous, quite frankly, 18 months or so," Gibbs said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."
Republicans can no longer afford to "simply sit and say no," Gibbs said, referring to the obstructive posture that GOP leaders generally struck in Obama's first two years in office. Instead, he called for Republicans to be part of a constructive conversation, at least in 2011 before the presidential campaign of 2012 really heats up.
Some liberals accused Obama of giving in too easily to Republican demands on some issues, particularly in cutting a deal that extended Bush-era tax cuts to everyone after Obama had campaigned on allowing tax rates of the wealthy to return to higher levels.
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