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Obama accepts 'shellacking'; will work with Republicans

Thursday November 04, 2010 10:11:25 AM, DPA

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Washington: US President Barack Obama took responsibility for the voter discontent that led to the "shellacking" of Democrats in congressional elections, while pledging Wednesday to work with the newly empowered Republicans.

"I'm not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did (Tuesday) night. You know, I'm sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons," Obama said in a post-election press conference at the White House.

The Democrats suffered huge losses as Republicans, galvanized by a grass roots ultra-conservative Tea Party movement, surged to take control of the House of Representatives while placing a huge dent in the Democratic majority in the upper Senate.

Republicans gained at least 50 seats in the House with some races still undetermined, while also gaining in the Senate and trimming Democratic control to the narrowest of margins. Republicans also fared well in state gubernatorial races.

The mid-term congressional elections were widely seen as a referendum on Obama's policies and a result of voter anger over the struggling economy and high unemployment. Obama has seen his job-approval rating fall dramatically since he took office two years ago.

"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," Obama said.

Severely weakened, Obama acknowledged he will need to work with Republicans to repair the economy and address other issues, including health care, which has been the cornerstone of his legislative agenda.

Obama said he spoke with the top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, and John Boehner, who is poised to become House speaker when the new Congress convenes in January.

"I've been willing to compromise in the past, and I'm going to be willing to compromise going forward, on a whole range of issues," Obama said. Pressed by reporters to explain his feelings on the outcome of the voting, Obama said plainly: "It feels bad."

The Republican leaders made it clear that they expect Obama and the Democrats to show a greater willingness to with with them. McConnell warned that a failure to do so could hurt Democrats more in 2012 elections.

"Our friends on the other side can change now or further change is going to happen in 2012," McConnell said at a press conference with Boehner.

"What we need to do is listen to the American people," Boehner said. "They sent a very loud message last night."

Boehner described his conversation with Obama as "very pleasant" and also pledged to work with Obama to find common ground. But the House speaker-in-waiting stood by his promise to repeal Obama's massive health care reforms.

"The health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world and bankrupt our country," Boehner said.

But Obama suggested he was unwilling to reopen discussions on key pieces of legislation passed in his first two years.

He said the economy was the "number one concern" of voters and he was willing to meet with Republican leaders and work with both parties on priorities including energy and education reform.

He predicted that voters were not interested in seeing Congress "relitigate arguments".

"What the American people don't want from us ... is to spend the next two years fighting the legislative battles of the last two years," Obama said.

Obama also acknowledged that with Republicans controlling the House, he is unlikely to push through a cap and trade system that would put a price on carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

Obama said he would push for more piecemeal incentives for developing alternative energies that could help the US reduce its carbon footprint.

"Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat," Obama said. "It was a means, not an end."

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats also agreed on the need to work in a bipartisan fashion, but stressed Republicans must be willing to do so.

"Republicans must take their responsibility to solve the problems of ordinary Americans," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who held onto his seat in an election that pitted him against a conservative Tea Party-backed Republican.

"Simply saying no as we've had this past Congress ... won't bring jobs back, it won't strengthen the economy and it won't help families who are trying to make ends meet."







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