Obama: Americans expect us to focus on their ambitions
President Obama says his party's loss in the midterms was a message from Americans to focus on them.
The results of midterm elections this week was a message from the American people to Democrats to focus on their ambitions, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
The president spoke to reporters a day after his Democratic Party saw Republicans take control of both houses of Congress.
"What stands out to me, though, is that the American people sent a message," Obama said. "They expect us to focus on their ambitions and not ours."
Although hard choices awaits the president as he prepares to deal with a Republican-controlled Congress, Obama said, "I am very eager to hear Republican ideas for what they think we can do together over the next couple of years."
Republicans are expected to push the White House on various domestic policies issues, including immigration and health care reform, and border security. Foreign policy concerns such as increased defense spending, nuclear talks with Iran and the administration's relationship with Israel are sure to be areas of focus.
Obama said there are three areas the parties can work together during the next several weeks before Congress wraps up for the holidays and the next Congress takes the oath of office in January.
He said he would submit a request to Congress to pass a bill to fund efforts to combat the spread of Ebola in Africa; seek new authorization to use military force against ISIL; and to pass a budget for the rest of the fiscal year in order to avoid a government shut-down.
In September, Congress passed short-term legislation to keep the government open and operating into December.
"I hope that they’ll do it in the same bipartisan, drama-free way that they did earlier this year. When our companies are steadily creating jobs, which they are, we don’t want to inject any new uncertainty into the world economy and to the American economy," he said.
Obama acknowledged that Republicans now have sufficient majorities to make real progress and said he will spend a lot more time with the opposition as it is "the only way that we’re going to be able to get some stuff done."
However, he also said that he would remain firm on certain issues such as health care and immigration reform.
Republicans have attempted to repeal the health care law known as Obamacare more than 40 times.
In addition to the problems that plagued the Obamacare website during its initial rollout last October that left the administration under fire, the law has been harshly criticized for allegedly raising the cost of health care premiums.
It has long been the rallying cry of Republicans that Obama assured Americans that the plan would decrease the federal deficit and reduce premiums but instead, both have increased.
"On health care, there are certainly some lines I’m going to draw. Repeal of the law I won’t sign," Obama said, adding that he would be cautious against recommendations from Republicans for changes that would undermine the structure of the health care law.
Obama also urged Congress to pass an immigration reform bill that has been long opposed by Republicans.
A proposal by Obama would grant a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, for reasons that include, he says, they have contributed to the U.S. economy and served the country.
"This is an issue I actually wanted to get done in my first term and we didn’t see legislative action. And in my second term I made it my top legislative priority. We got really good work done by a bipartisan group of senators but it froze up in the House," Obama said.
He also encouraged Republicans to pass a reform bill so that his executive actions on the issues will not be needed.
"I will engage any member of Congress who’s interested in this in how we can shape legislation that will be a significant improvement over the existing system. But what we can’t do is just keep on waiting. There is a cost to waiting. There’s a cost to our economy. It means that resources are misallocated," he added.
The presumptive Senate Majority Leader also held a press conference earlier in the day.
Mitch McConnell said that he saw some potential common ground with Democrats. "I think there are pretty big and important issues that I think we have potential areas of agreement: trade and tax reform."
He said the system has given the president constitutional advantages so in order to get anything done, Obama is needed.
"He’s been protected from having to do that the last four years by the dysfunctional Senate, which doesn’t pass anything, doesn’t send him anything that he doesn’t like," he said. "Now he’s going to have a Congress that’s going to be more challenging for him, but the choice is really his. And I’m hoping that he will decide to move to the center."
Last Modified: 2014-11-06 09:22:32
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