(CNN) — Rep. Rahm Emanuel insisted Sunday that he would help President-elect Barack Obama work in a bipartisan fashion, brushing off criticism that he would be a “hyper-partisan” chief of staff.
“President Obama is very clear, as you look at his career, both in the state senate, U.S. Senate, and the campaign, that we have to govern in a bipartisan fashion,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“The challenges are big enough that there's going to be an ability for people of both parties, as well as independents, to contribute ideas to help meet the challenges on health care, energy, tax reform, education,” he said.
Obama announced last week that he had chosen Emanuel to be his chief of staff.
The Republican National Committee put out a press release shortly thereafter that said, “Obama’s Broken Promise: After promising change, Obama selects hyper-partisan wedded to special interests.” Minority Leader John Boehner called Emanuel an “ironic choice” for a president-elect who promised to “govern from the center.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, however, agreed with Democrats and called Emanuel a “wise choice.”
"Rahm knows Capitol Hill and has great political skills. He can be a tough partisan but also understands the need to work together. He is well-suited for the position of White House chief of staff," the South Carolina senator said.
Graham said he and Emanuel worked together during the presidential debate negotiations, and "when we hit a rough spot, he always looked for a path forward."
Emanuel, who has a reputation as a tough political infighter, is credited with helping Democrats take control of the House in 2006.
He was elected to the House in 2002 and is the fourth highest-ranking member of the chamber's Democratic leadership. He worked on President Clinton's first presidential campaign and served as a White House adviser to Clinton.
The Chicago politician said Sunday that it will take a joint effort from leaders of both parties to tackle the challenges facing the country.
“Because the challenges … whether on the national security front or on the economic, are looming large, and they're going to require both parties and leaders of both parties, as well as independents, to offer up ideas to how to meet those challenges,” he said.
Emanuel also said he thought Sen. John McCain would be a “partner” in working to solve those problems.