Obama unrepentant after losing Senate

An unrepentant President Obama said he had one major concession to the Republican Party that stormed to big majorities in the Senate and House in Tuesday’s midterm elections: He plans to listen more.

Well, at least with the issues they agree on.

Pressed repeatedly during a post-election press conference Wednesday on his role in Democrats’ disastrous election performance, Obama said he didn’t want “to try to read the tea leaves.”


He said the economy remains strong, while pointing out that two-thirds of voters didn’t participate in the midterms — suggesting Republicans lack a mandate.

Obama said the message that he took away — that voters want to see “this town work” — was the same that he’d seen in most of the previous elections during his term.

“What I’d like to do is to hear from the Republicans, to find out what it is that they would like to see happen,” Obama said. “And what I’m committing to is making sure that I am open to working with them on the issues where they think that there’s going to be cooperation.”

In sum, there was little by way of apology from the president — either to Democrats who blame him for their losses or Republicans who disagree with his policies.

After the 2010 midterms, Obama described his party’s loss of the House majority in frank terms, calling it a “shellacking.” On Wednesday, the president went out of his away to avoid such language, saying only, “Obviously, Republicans had a good night.”

He seemed to shrug aside suggestions of a Clintonesque reset of his administration, and acknowledged that on major policy priorities voiced by incoming Republican lawmakers, he wasn’t likely to give much ground.


“The principles that we’re fighting for, the things that motivate me every single day and motivate my staff every day, those things aren’t going to change,” Obama said.

Major changes to his signature healthcare law represented a line he could not cross, for instance. The White House plans to forge ahead with immigration executive orders that Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump: McConnell 'helpless' to stop Biden from packing court Senate GOP opens door to earmarks McConnell sidesteps Trump calling him 'dumb son of a b----' MORE (R-Ky.) only minutes earlier had described as similar to “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” And Obama is going to let the “process play out” on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

As for a shake-up of the White House’s political staff, which has come under fire from Democrats and Republicans alike?

“It’s probably premature” to consider, Obama said.

The president offered a few suggestions he framed as bipartisan measures.

He floated the idea of raising the federal minimum wage as an issue where the two parties could agree, even though Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA leadership menagerie of metaphorical scapegoats Boehner says 'unemployed' Trump 'has nothing else to do' but 'cause trouble' Boehner: 'There's a lot of leaders in the Republican Party' MORE (R-Ohio) has flatly rejected that idea as a job-killer.

Obama also said that “traditionally both parties” had supported infrastructure projects. But it’s not clear if the president can offer a package that does not rely on a gas tax hike Republicans have vehemently opposed.

Both sides have said they want corporate tax reform, but on Wednesday Obama conceded that “the devil’s in the details” on the issue.

On free trade, Obama has long wanted to negotiate. McConnell, whose own reelection win Tuesday paves the way for him to become Senate majority leader, also suggested Wednesday he was ready to consider trade deals under negotiation by the administration.

The problem is, Democrats have strongly opposed such measures, and even with a newly minted majority, 60 votes could be hard to find.

Obama said repeatedly he was committed and eager to working with the new Republican leadership. But he said that wasn’t a post-election change.

“That isn’t a change because I’ve suggested to them before that where they think there’s areas of cooperation, I’d like to see us get some things done,” Obama said.

And, the president said, “Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions that some in Congress will not like,” he continued. “That’s natural.”

The resoluteness was not lost on Republican leaders, who blasted Obama for not having learned from his party’s losses.

“The American people should be very concerned that their president didn’t get the message of yesterday’s election,” said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement. “I hope that’s not the case, but today, in word and tone he refused to take responsibility or even express humility. He seemed to suggest the only ideas he’s willing to listen to are his own, old, failed ones. That’s the same my-way-or-the-highway approach that the American people rejected.”

Obama did say he’d be open to having a glass of Kentucky bourbon with McConnell or playing another round of golf with BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA leadership menagerie of metaphorical scapegoats Boehner says 'unemployed' Trump 'has nothing else to do' but 'cause trouble' Boehner: 'There's a lot of leaders in the Republican Party' MORE if it would prove effective.

“If the way that we’re approaching the Republicans in Congress isn’t working, you know, I’m going to try different things,” Obama said.

Obama also outlined a series of new priorities he hopes lawmakers will take up.

He requested more than $6 billion in additional funding for the U.S. fight against Ebola on Wednesday.


He’s also asking lawmakers to pass a new authorization specifically tailored to U.S. military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. While many lawmakers have called for such explicit approval, some Republicans have also called on

Obama to escalate the campaign through the use of ground troops.

And lawmakers will need to pass a new continuing resolution on the budget before funding runs dry in just over a month.

Obama did say there was one area worthy of “experimenting and trying to do better” — selling his vision to the public.

“Just making sure the people know exactly what it is we’re trying to accomplish and what we have accomplished in clear ways that people can understand how it affects them,” Obama said.

This story was posted at 3:02 p.m. and updated at 3:50 p.m. and 8:22 p.m.