From NBC's Carrie Dann and Ken Strickland
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, on Capitol Hill today to meet with House and Senate Republicans, says that the lines of communication will run across the aisle in an Obama administration.
Senate Republicans say that promise includes the famously outgoing Democrat's digits.
"He gave us all his personal cell phone," said newly-selected Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Ensign, who met with Emanuel today. "He said he promised to get back us on issues within 24 hours."
VIDEO: Rahm Emanuel speaks to reporters during a day of meetings with Republicans on Capitol Hill.
The former Illinois lawmaker's visit to the Hill today to meet with Ensign's Senate leadership colleagues, as well as with newly-selected House bigs Eric Cantor and Mike Pence, was intended as a gesture of bipartisan goodwill on the part of the new administration. Emanuel told reporters this afternoon that he was directed by Obama to request the series of meetings with GOP leaders to indicate that the new administration will "welcome their ideas," emphasizing that "the challenges facing the country require that people of both parties work together to solve those problems." (Today's meetings, he added, are in addition to "twenty plus" phone calls to members of the Republican conference in the time since he was named as Obama's top White House aide.)
Incoming NRSC Chair John Cornyn praised the fact that Emanuel took the time to reach out to Republican leaders. "He thought it was important enough to come over and spend an hour with us," Cornyn said. "[That] speaks volumes, more than just what he said." The Texas senator added that he's anxious to see "whether the actions match the message."
Emanuel briefly addressed reporters during the course of the meetings today, underscoring the new administration's willingness to reach across the aisle but not mentioning the possibility of any further Congressional action on a compromise auto industry bailout before January. Speaking broadly about President-elect Obama's intention to collaborate with GOP leaders, Emanuel did not make reference to another possible lame duck session of Congress to address federal aid to the industry, saying that his visit to the Hill comes during "obviously the last week of the 110th Congress."
Ensign, who said that he was "very pleased" with today's conversation with Emanuel, was optimistic about the incoming administration's intentions. "His words were basically 'this is not a head-fake on bipartisanship. This is real.' They really want to work in a bipartisan fashion and it's not about just saying it, they actually plan on doing it," Ensign said. "Those are exactly the right words to use."