WASHINGTON (AP) — A chastened President Barack Obama signaled a willingness to compromise with Republicans on tax cuts and energy policy Wednesday, one day after his party lost control of the House and suffered deep Senate losses in midterm elections.
Obama ruefully called the Republican victories "a shellacking."
At a White House news conference the president said that when Congress returns, "my goal is to make sure we don't have a huge spike in taxes for middle class families." He made no mention of his campaign-long insistence that tax cuts be permitted to expire on upper-income families, a position that put him in conflict with Republicans.
He also virtually abandoned his legislation — hopelessly stalled in the Senate — featuring economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, vehicles and other sources.
"I'm going to be looking for other means of addressing this problem," he said. "Cap and trade was one way to skin the cat," he said, strongly implying there will be others.
In the campaign, Republicans slammed the bill as a "national energy tax" and jobs killer, and numerous Democrats sought to emphasize their opposition to the measure during their own re-election races.
The president opened his post-election news conference by saying voters who felt frustrated by the sluggish pace of economic recovery had dictated the Republican takeover in the House.
Asked to reflect on the returns, he said, "I feel bad," adding that many Democrats who went down to defeat had done so knowing they risked their careers to support his agenda of economic stimulus legislation and a landmark health care bill.
The president said he was eager to sit down with the leaders of both political parties "and figure out how we can move forward together."
"It won't be easy," he said, noting the two parties differ profoundly in some key areas.
The election was a humbling episode for the once-high-flying president, and the change showed during his news conference. Largely absent were his smiles and buoyant demeanor, replaced by somberness and an acknowledgment that his policies may have alienated some Americans.
"I think people started looking at all this, and it felt as if government was getting much more intrusive into people's lives than they were accustomed to," he conceded. But he wasn't talking surrender either.
He sought to tread a careful line, suggesting he would cooperate with Republicans where it was possible and confront them when it was not.
"No one party will be able to dictate where we go from here," he said, a clear warning to Republicans that he won't simply bow to their demands for a sharply conservative switch in economic policy.