Obama reaches out to Republicans after midterms
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President Barack Obama says he has heard the message from voters who put Republicans in power in the US Senate and extended their majority in the House of Representatives.
Obama said the Republican victories are a sign Americans want Washington “to get the job done” and he is eager to hear Republican ideas for governing together.
Still, he vowed not to give up on his priorities, including job creation and changing the country’s broken immigration system. He stood by his pledge to act on his own to reduce deportations improve border security by the end of the year.
Tuesday’s vote gives Republicans momentum heading into the 2016 presidential race, which becomes the focus of American politics for the next two years. At issue now is whether Obama, congressional Democrats and the newly robust Republican majorities will be able to break the legislative gridlock that has gripped the US capital in recent years.
McConnell, looking forward to cooperation
Although immigration has been seen an area for potential agreement, the issue immediately emerged as a point of friction.
Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, in line to be the next Senate majority leader, warned it would be a “mistake” for Obama to take unilateral action on immigration.
McConnell, the big winner of Tuesday’s elections, said he spoke with Obama on Wednesday and says he looks forward to finding areas where Republicans and Democrats can agree, specifically citing trade agreements and rewriting the tax code.
But he said any executive action that Obama might take to address the nation’s immigration system would only antagonize Republicans. He said the new Republican majority in the Senate wants to take action on immigration.
McConnell, who won re-election in Kentucky, has been a severe critic of Obama, but has also helped broker bipartisan deals that ended last year’s government shutdown and twice averted federal default.
He promised Wednesday that “there will be no government shutdown or default on the national debt.” Still, he said veto showdowns are also possible in the two-year era of divided government just ahead.
McConnell, famously taciturn, smiled and joked with reporters one day after the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. He will take office in January as Senate majority leader, and he and House Speaker John Boehner will have the authority to set the congressional agenda.
Republican win sets new challenges for Obama
The Election Day thumping of the Democratic Party is a low point for a president who electrified the world with his election in 2008 as the first African-American president and was comfortably re-elected in 2012. Though Democrats lost the House in 2010, partly in a backlash to his healthcare overhaul, this will be the first time Obama must also deal with a Republican-led Senate.
The election results alter the American political dynamic on immigration reform, budget matters, presidential nominations, trade and much more. With lawmakers planning to return to Washington next week, Obama invited congressional leaders to a meeting Friday.
Obama could use the president’s veto power if Republicans pass bills he opposes, such as a repeal of his signature health care law. Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber of Congress, an unlikely scenario.
In state capitols, Republicans were poised to leave their imprint, picking up governors’ seats in reliably Democratic states like Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. Republicans were especially encouraged by victories in battleground states that can sway presidential races, such as Florida and Ohio.
Heading into the vote, polls showed Republicans picking up the six Senate seats they needed for a majority. They snatched away at least seven, giving them at least 52 seats in the 100-member Senate.
Republican gains could continue. In Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich was trailing Republican Dan Sullivan, and Louisiana is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff after no candidate won a majority. In a further sign of Democratic woes, the Republican candidate still has not conceded defeat in Virginia, where Democrat incumbent Mark Warner garnered just a one-point advantage. His Republican challenger still might call for a recount.
Obama on the ballot
Republicans had made Obama’s presidency the core issue of their campaigns, even though he wasn’t on the ballot. They tapped into a well of discouragement at a time many Americans are upset with a sluggish economic recovery and are besieged by troubling news, such as the spread of Ebola and the rapid rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after casting ballots said the US was seriously on the wrong track. Only about 30 percent said the US was headed in the right direction.
The economy remained the top issue for voters, who ranked it ahead of health care, immigration or foreign policy. And economic worries played to Republicans’ advantage, according to the surveys of voters as they left polling places.
More than four in 10 voters disapproved of both Obama and Congress, according to the exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.
Obama’s poor approval ratings turned him into a liability for Democrats seeking re-election. The outcome offered parallels to the final midterm election of Republican George W. Bush’s presidency, when Democrats won sweeping victories amid voter discontent with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Democrats had few bright spots. New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan, who campaigned with potential 2016 candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton last weekend, both won re-election. In Pennsylvania, businessman Tom Wolf dispatched Republican Gov. Tom Corbett.
In the House, only a few dozen races were truly competitive. But in a sign of the depth of voter displeasure, Democrats could not even beat Republican Michael Grimm, a New York congressman indicted on tax fraud and other charges. He gained national fame by threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony in Congress.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)