Republicans lost no time Wednesday making their presence felt as part of the new Washington power equation as top leaders pledged to modify the Obama administration's healthcare insurance overhaul and to work on creating jobs while reducing government spending.
In televised remarks to reporters, Rep. John Boehner, of Ohio, who is expected to become the new speaker of the House, replacing Nancy Pelosi, said Tuesday’s election was a mandate for his party to push the agenda on which it had successfully run and won control of one congressional chamber while picking up seats and influence in the Senate.
Boehner was pointed in his comments about healthcare, calling the existing law, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s two years in office, a monstrosity that must be changed.
“The American people are concerned about the government takeover of healthcare,” he said. “I think it is important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity and replace it with common-sense reforms that will bring down the cost of healthcare insurance in America.”
President Obama will give his assessment of the elections later Wednesday at a news conference.
Boehner shied away from specifics, saying the party was studying how to proceed, but he made it clear the direction he wanted to move. The healthcare insurance overhaul was passed in the face of GOP opposition in both houses and became one of the main planks in the midterm elections.
“It’s pretty clear the Obama-Pelosi agenda is being rejected,” Boehner told reporters. “They want the president to change course, and I think change course we will.”
Republicans picked up an estimated 60 seats in the House with perhaps two dozen races still undecided. On the Senate side, Republicans picked up six seats, with three contests still to be determined.
Boehner also said the economy was high on the GOP agenda.
“It's pretty clear the American people want us to do something about cutting spending here in Washington and helping to create an environment where we'll get jobs back,” he said.
“People want a government that seeks results,” said Rep. Eric Cantor, of Virginia, expected to become the second-most-powerful Republican in the House.
The news conference came a day after Republicans rolled up sizable gains in congressional districts and statehouses across the country and politicians took to the airwaves to try to place their mark on the next chapter of American politics.
Democrats, badly bruised by the loss of their majority in the House of Representatives and the gain of Republican influence in the Senate, were cautious and called for cooperation.
Republicans were eager to establish a new tone of conservative activism as they tried to shed their Democratic-inspired image of being merely obstructionist and unwilling to accept responsibility for making the hard choices involved in governing.
"We've been given a second chance and a golden opportunity," said Cantor on CBS' "The Early Show." Cantor is expected to become majority leader when the new Congress convenes.
Democrats on Wednesday are expected to acknowledge the electoral drubbing they took in the House but point out they did better than expected in the Senate, where the GOP fell short of the goal of winning a majority.
"The time for politics is now over," said Sen. Harry Reid, the majority leader who held on to his seat in a tough battle with "tea party" movement favorite, Sharron Angle.
"Just saying no doesn't do the trick," he said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
But Democrats and establishment Republicans will have to contend with a new movement, the tea-party caucus, those new legislators in both congressional chambers who will go to Washington with a sharply conservative agenda, including deficit reduction and changes to legislation such as the healthcare insurance overhaul.
The tea-party group is expected to be a wild card as Washington braces for the new era of divided government and its expected effect on presidential politics until the 2012 elections.
"People complain a lot about gridlock, but whenever you analyze government, federal government or state government, it seems like the most fiscally conservative government is always divided government," said Rand Paul, on NBC's "Today." Paul won the Senate seat from Kentucky.
Paul will be joined by other tea-party favorites -- Mike Lee in Utah and Marco Rubio in Florida.
The GOP also captured 10 governorships from the Democrats.