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Republican Leaders Challenge Obama to Work With Them

House Republican leader John Boehner. Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
House Republican leader John Boehner. Photographer: Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Republican leaders in Congress challenged President Barack Obama and Democrats to “pivot in a different direction” to reduce government spending and create jobs after Republicans captured the House and gained at least six Senate seats.

House Republican leader John Boehner, who will become speaker in January, and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell said at a news conference today they hope Obama and Democrats in Congress will heed the voters’ desire that they change course and find bipartisan solutions to growing government debt and persistent high unemployment.

Boehner, of Ohio, said that during a telephone call last night he and Obama “discussed working together on the people’s priorities: cutting spending, creating jobs, and we hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those priorities.”

Republicans gained at least 60 House seats, their largest net gain since 1938 when Democrats lost 72 seats. The party will gain control of the House in January for the first time since 2006. Republicans fell short of winning a majority in the Senate, with two races undecided.

McConnell said members of his party are “determined to stop the agenda Americans have rejected and turn the ship around.” Republicans will “work with the administration when they agree with the people and confront them when they don’t,” he said.

‘Meet in the Middle’

“The question is,” McConnell said, “how do we meet in the middle?” McConnell, of Kentucky, said Democrats “may have missed the message” because their view is that Republicans “haven’t cooperated enough.”

Obama said at a news conference today that the elections were more evidence that the American people are “deeply frustrated” by the pace of the economic recovery.

“I’ve been willing to compromise in the past and I am willing to compromise going forward on a whole range of issues,” Obama said. “There are some areas where it’s going to be very difficult for us to agree.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said his party won’t shy away from its emphasis on “putting the concerns of the middle class first.”

“Republicans must take their responsibility to solve the problems of ordinary Americans,” Reid told reporters on a conference call. “Simply saying ‘no’” as Republicans did in the last two years “won’t bring jobs back” or “help families trying to make ends meet,” he said.

‘Shared Solutions’

Reid said he and other Democrats will work with Republicans to “find shared solutions to our shared problems.”

McConnell said he hoped Democrats “will pivot in a different direction and work with us on things like spending and debt and trade agreements” and “other things the president said that he’s for” such as nuclear power and clean-coal technology.

He said he expects “enough Democrats to come in our direction on spending and debt where we can actually make progress for the American people.”

With at least 47 seats in the Senate, Republicans will have more power to shape legislation by denying Democratic leaders the ability to get a 60-vote supermajority to cut off debate.

Boehner reiterated his determination to repeal the health-care overhaul law the Democratic-controlled Congress enacted earlier this year, saying it “will kill jobs” and “ruin the best health-care system in the world.”

Republicans won’t have the votes to overcome a presidential veto if Congress enacted legislation to repeal the health-care measure.

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