By Steve Holland and Jarrett Renshaw
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden used the National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday to call on Americans - and especially Republicans and Democrats in Congress - to start treating each other as humans again, and work together to better the nation.
"I think we see each other as enemies, not friends," the Democratic president told attendees, who included Democrat Nancy Pelosi, failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake of Arizona, and Republican House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who Biden was seated next to.
"My prayer for this prayer breakfast is we start to see each other again .... argue like hell with each other, but still go to lunch together," Biden said at the U.S. Capitol.
"While we have profound differences the last two years, we've proven we can come together to do big things for the country, We can join hands and get things done. We can redeem the soul of America," Biden told the assembled lawmakers.
The National Prayer Breakfast is an annual, nondenominational event that has been held for seven decades and is attended by members of Congress. It is organized by the National Prayer Breakfast Foundation, headed by former U.S. Senator Mark Pryor.
The first president to attend one was Dwight Eisenhower in 1953.
Biden urged frequently bickering lawmakers to treat each other with respect and used his own budding relationship with new Speaker McCarthy as an example a day after they met on the U.S. debt ceiling.
"That's what Kevin and I are gonna do. That's no joke. We had a good meeting yesterday," Biden said. "I think we got to do it across the board."
The president noted that America has suffered through several tough years, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic, gun violence and major storms have battered the nation. But he said America is resilient.
"As tough as these times have been, if we look closer, we see the strength and determination that has long defined America," Biden said.
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Jonathan Oatis)