A subdued President Barack Obama Wednesday vowed to seek common ground with Republicans who rolled to victory in congressional elections and he took responsibility for a sour economy that led to "humbling" Democratic losses.
Obama confessed to having suffered a "long night" on Tuesday as Republicans romped to control of the U.S. House of Representatives and made gains in the Senate. He spoke in a White House East Room news conference having suffered the biggest political defeat of his career.
While stressing his commitment to finding common ground with his Republican opponents, he made clear there were some lines he would not cross.
"I'm not suggesting this will be easy," Obama said. "I won't pretend that we'll be able to bridge every difference or solve every disagreement."
Gone was the campaign rhetoric in which Obama skewered Republicans for wanting to take the country back to economic policies he believes have been discredited. Obama spoke in a subdued monotone, with an occasional smile.
"Some election nights are more fun than others. Some are exhilarating, some are humbling," he said.
Republicans picked up at least 60 House seats in the biggest shift in power since Democrats gained 75 House seats in 1948. It gave Republicans their largest House margin since 1928.
The election outcome put pressure on Obama to make a mid-course correction in the direction of his administration as he seeks to reduce the 9.6 percent jobless rate and prepares to ask Americans for a new term in 2012.
Obama stuck to positions that he held before the elections. He said it is a top priority for Congress to extend Bush-era tax cuts only for those making $250,000 or less. Republicans want the tax cuts extended for those making above that amount as well.
Obama said he did not believe the U.S. election result was a repudiation of his sweeping healthcare overhaul. But he signaled he was willing to work with Republicans on "tweaks."
Republicans have vowed to repeal and replace the healthcare law.
"If the Republicans have ideas for how to improve our healthcare system, if they want to suggest modifications that would deliver faster, more effective reform ... I am happy to consider some of those ideas," Obama said.
Obama, whose former Illinois Senate seat went to a Republican, said he has made progress on improving the economy but believed "people are frustrated" by weak economic conditions.
"Clearly too many Americans haven't felt that progress yet, and they told us that yesterday. And, as president, I take responsibility for that," he said.
Obama said Americans are worried by spending and deficits, but the country should not cut funding for education or research while trying to bring the deficit down.
"In these budget discussions, the key is to be able to distinguish between stuff that isn't adding to our growth, isn't an investment in our future, and those things that are absolutely necessary for us to be able to increase job growth in the future as well, he said. (Writing by Steve Holland; editing by Christopher Wilson)
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