Saying he understood the frustration that led to the strong electoral showing by Republicans, President Obama on Wednesday said he would work harder to build a political consensus that could deal with solving the country’s problems.
“Some election nights are more fun than others, some are exhilarating, some are humbling,” said Obama, who later described the results as a 'shellacking."
At his post-election news conference, Obama insisted his administration had made progress in dealing with economic problems, identified as the number one issue, but that improvement had come too slowly.
“Yesterday’s vote confirmed what I 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, and they want the ability to give their children the same chances and opportunities as they’ve had in life."
"Over the last two years, we’ve made progress. But, clearly, too many Americans haven’t felt that progress yet, and they told us that yesterday. And as president, I take responsibility for that," he said.
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But in the new world of divided political power in Washington, with Republicans controlling one house of Congress and more powerful in the other, Obama urged all parties to work together. The president acknowledged that cooperation could be easier said than done.
"What yesterday also told us is that no one party will be able to dictate where we go from here, that we must find common ground in order to set -- in order to make progress on some uncommonly difficult challenges," Obama said.
"I believe it’s important to have an honest and civil debate about the choices that we face," Obama said. "That’s why I want to engage both Democrats and Republicans in serious conversations about where we’re going as a nation.
Noting the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, Obama said "with so much at stake, what the American people don’t want from us, especially here in Washington, is to spend the next two years refighting the political battles of the last two.
"We just had a tough election. We will have another in 2012. I’m not so naïve as to think that everybody will put politics aside until then, but I do hope to make progress on the very serious problems facing us right now. And that’s going to require all of us, including me, to work harder at building consensus," Obama said.
Obama said that both sides could work on economic issues including dealing with the expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts, dealing with the budget deficit and that he was even open to some changes to the healthcare insurance overhaul, one of the centerpieces of his tenure and one of the GOP's main targets during the midterm elections.
"If the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our healthcare system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster, more effective reform … I am happy to consider some of those ideas,” Obama said.
Fresh off of their election victory, Republicans earlier were cordial in their desire to work with Obama, but pointedly insisted that they would stick with the anti-administration agenda that had brought them victory.
“We hope he is willing to work with us on these priorities. But as I have said, our new majority will be the voice of the American people as they expressed it so clearly yesterday,” said Rep. John Boehner, of Ohio, expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives. Boehner, who replaces 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.
“The American people are concerned about the government takeover of healthcare,” he said at morning media appearance before a formal news conference.. “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.”
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.