November 3, 2010 for UPI
by Josh Lederman

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama struck a conciliatory tone Wednesday, taking responsibility for the slow pace of economic progress the day after Republicans walloped Democrats, winning a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and raking in major wins in senatorial and gubernatorial races.

Calling the election a “shellacking,” the president said that while the economy has stabilized from the free fall it was experiencing when he took office in January 2009, Americans aren’t feeling the improvement.

“I’ve got to take direct responsibility for the fact that we haven’t made as much progress as we need to make,” Obama said.

Obama also acknowledged that although he campaigned not only on setting new policies but on changing how Washington operates, the latter was sacrificed in the interest of expediency.

“In a rush to get things done, I had to sign a bunch of bills that had earmarks in them,” he said, pointing out that a moratorium on earmarks proposed by Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., might be one opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to work together.

Those opportunities are likely to be difficult to find, a point the president acknowledged, particularly as post-election pledges to repeal Obama’s signature healthcare reform flood in from Republican leaders, including Cantor and House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is poised to become the next speaker of the House.

Boehner said Wednesday that the healthcare bill will “kill jobs in America, ruin the best healthcare system in the world and bankrupt our country.” Exit polls conducted by Rasmussen Reports indicated that 59 percent of those who voted Tuesday support repealing the healthcare bill.

Although Obama said Wednesday that he’s open to Republican suggestions for modifying and improving healthcare and other legislation, he pushed back against the notion that Americans have rejected his policy directions.

“I think we’d be misreading the election if we thought the American people want to see us for the next two years re-litigate arguments we had over the last two years,” Obama said. “I’ve been willing to compromise in the past and I’m going to be willing to compromise going forward.”

Compromise will be necessary to overcome legislative gridlock, with each party controlling one chamber of Congress come January. Although Democrats held on to the Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will continue to control the floor, Republican gains of at least six Senate seats mean it will be even easier for them to block Democratic legislation.

Yet in Obama’s Wednesday news conference in the East Room of the White House, his candid reflections focused more on the emotional impact than on political realities.

“It feels bad,” Obama said. “The toughest thing over the last couple of days is seeing really terrific public servants not have the option to serve anymore.”

Many of those lawmakers lost their bids for re-election because of tough votes they took in support of his agenda, Obama admitted.

“It’s hard and I take responsibility for it,” he said.