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Obama Calls Democratic Losses 'Humbling,' Vows Cooperation With Republicans

  • Heather Maher

In a White House news conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said he would try to find common ground with members of the Republican Party.

In a White House news conference, U.S. President Barack Obama said he would try to find common ground with members of the Republican Party.

WASHINGTON -- One day after his party suffered huge losses at the polls, President Barack Obama said the results of midterm elections showed that Americans are "frustrated" with the slow pace of economic recovery and the lack of job creation.


In a White House news conference, a somber-looking Obama said the "humbling" losses suffered by his Democratic Party on November 2 had confirmed what he had heard from the public as he traveled the country during the campaign season.


"Yesterday's vote confirmed what I've heard from folks all across America," he said. "People are frustrated; they're deeply frustrated with the pace of our economic recovery and the opportunities that they hope for their children and their grandchildren. They want jobs to come back faster. They want paychecks to go further."


'I Take Responsibility'

The November 2 vote saw Republicans pick up 60 new seats in the House of Representatives, enough to put them in the majority. The conservatives also picked up several new seats in the 100-member U.S. Senate, but not enough to take control.


Obama said he felt "bad" about the results and also about the fact that many Democrats who lost their reelection contests had supported his legislative agenda of health-care reform and economic stimulus.


Even as he defended what the Democratic Congress has accomplished under his leadership -- stabilizing the economy and spurring job growth in the private sector -- Obama said the responsibility for the continued high rate of unemployment was his.


"My core responsibility is making sure that we've got an economy that's growing, a middle class that feels secure, that jobs are being created. And so I think I have got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we have not made as much progress as we need to make," he said.


The U.S. leader pledged to work with the divided Congress to find common ground on issues, including tax cuts and energy policy. And he signaled one compromise already -- on his long-sought green energy legislation, known as the "cap and trade" bill.

The bill, which provides economic incentives aimed at reducing carbon emissions, is currently stalled in the Senate. Republicans have criticized it as a "national energy tax" and a disincentive to job creation.

Obama said he would be "looking for other means of addressing this problem." Democrats and Republicans, he said, "must find common ground...in order to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges.


Governing Mandate?

Earlier in the day, the speaker of the house-in-waiting, Republican John Boehner, held a news conference of his own in which he characterized the new Congress as no less than "the voice of the American people."

"This is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people's priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending, and reforming the way Congress does its business," he said.

Boehner pledged to repeal the landmark health-care reform bill that Obama and the Democratic Congress passed earlier this year, calling it a "monstrosity."

Appearing with Boehner was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who called the election "a referendum on the administration and the Democratic majority here in the Congress" and said the health-care bill exemplified the government overspending of the last two years.

"The American people watched the government running banks, insurance companies, car companies, taking over the student loan business, and then they said, 'Now they're taking my health care as well.' And I think it just became the tipping point during the course of the last two years," McConnell said.

Flexibility

In reality, there's little the Republicans can probably do to dismantle the health care legislation, which among its many provisions extends health insurance to millions of previously uninsured Americans and prevents insurance companies from denying coverage to people who get sick.


Much of the new funding for the bill has been put in motion already, and Republicans would face an uphill battle in the Senate. As a last defense, Obama could refuse to sign into law any bill that repeals the new plan.


But today at least, sounding bowed but unbroken, Obama said he could be flexible even on that.

"If the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our health-care system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster and more effective reform to a health-care system that, you know, has been wildly expensive for too many families and businesses and certainly for our federal government, I'm happy to consider some of those ideas," Obama said.


If he hopes to get anything passed by Congress before he stands for reelection in 2012, he may not have much of a choice.

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