President Barack Obama said 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 in a mid-term election that was a clear repudiation of his leadership.
Obama said the Republican victories were a sign Americans want Washington “to get the job done” and he was 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 and 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.
Although immigration has been seen an area for potential agreement, the issue immediately emerged as a point of friction.
Republican Senator 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 the elections, said he spoke with Obama yesterday and said he looked 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 antagonise 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.
Though Democrats lost the House in 2010, partly in a backlash to his health care 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 tomorrow. He 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, an unlikely scenario.
In state capitals, 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.
Republicans had made Obama’s presidency the core issue of their campaigns. They tapped into a well of discontent at a time many Americans are upset with a sluggish economic recovery and are besieged by troubling news, such as ebola and the rapid rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Nearly two-thirds of voters interviewed after casting ballots said the US was seriously on the wrong track.
The economy remained the top issue for voters.
In the House, Republicans were on track to meet or exceed the 246 seats they held during Democrat Harry Truman’s administration more than 60 years ago.
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