White House

Obama says Republicans “had a good night”

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the midterm elections that saw his party lose the Senate during a press conference in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington, D.C.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on the midterm elections that saw his party lose the Senate during a press conference in the East Room of the White House on Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington, D.C. MCT

President Barack Obama sought to strike an upbeat, conciliatory tone Wednesday in the face of sweeping Republican gains in the midterm elections that are likely to constrain his final two years in office.

“Obviously, Republicans had a good night,” Obama said. “And they deserve credit for running good campaigns. Beyond that, I'll leave it to all of you and the professional pundits to pick through yesterday's results.”

Obama memorably characterized Democratic losses in 2010 as a “shellacking,” but he studiously avoided any word like it on Wednesday, instead pledging that he’d work with a new Republican-led Senate to find common ground.

Voters, he said, “want us to get the job done. All of us in both parties have a responsibility to address that sentiment.”

He declined to take blame for the showing, though he had said at a fundraiser that his policies would be on the ballot.

“The American people overwhelmingly believe that this town doesn't work well, and that it is not attentive to their needs,” he said. “And as president, they rightly hold me accountable to do more to make it work properly.”

He pledged he would work with Republicans -- quipping at one point he would “enjoy having some Kentucky bourbon w Mitch McConnell,” the incoming Senate Majority Leader.

Before the new Congress takes office in January, Obama said he’ll ask Congress for a new authorization to use military force against the Islamic State.

“The world needs to know we are united behind this effort and the men and women of our military deserve our clear and unified support,” Obama said.

He also pledged to go ahead with his own fix to immigration laws, though McConnell warned against doing so in his own press conference before Obama spoke.

Obama said he’d reach out to McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner “and if they want to get a bill done, whether it's during the lame duck or next year, I am eager to see what they have to offer.

“But what I'm not going to do is just wait,” he said.

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