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Obama to voters after Republican sweep of Congress: 'I hear you'

(Agencies) Updated: 2014-11-06 05:45

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama acknowledged on Wednesday that "Republicans had a good night" with sweeping election victories in Congress and said he got a clear message from voters that it was his responsibility to break a Washington gridlock.

Tuesday's elections gave Republicans control of both houses of Congress for the first time since elections in 2006. The new Congress will take office in early January.

"As president, I have a unique responsibility to try and make this town work," the Democratic president said at a White House news conference. "So, to everyone who voted, I want you to know that I hear you."

Republicans seized control of the US Senate and captured their biggest majority in the House of Representatives in more than 60 years. The party also won more than half of the 36 governors' races on Tuesday.

"Obviously, Republicans had a good night. And they deserve credit for running good campaigns," Obama said.

The president, whose unpopularity made him unwelcome to many fellow Democrats running for office, called a series of Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Tuesday night, the White House said. On Wednesday, he spoke with Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, who is poised to become the Senate's new majority leader, and with House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner.

"I told them both that I look forward to finishing up this Congress' business and then working together for the next two years to advance America's business," Obama said.

At a news conference earlier in Louisville, Kentucky, McConnell said he believed Obama was interested in moving forward on trade agreements and tax reform, two issues at a Washington standstill in the face of political differences.

"This gridlock and dysfunction can be ended. It can be ended by having a Senate that actually works," McConnell said.

Obama plans to meet with congressional leaders from both parties at the White House on Friday to take stock of the new political landscape.

It was "a pretty ugly night" for Democrats, said Representative Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, speaking on MSNBC.

Republicans ran races across the country that pilloried Obama and his policies.

Despite the Republican gains, the election was not necessarily an endorsement of their policies. Initiatives championed by Democrats to raise the minimum wage and legalize possession of small amounts of marijuana succeeded in a handful of states where they were on the ballot.

While vowing to push harder to get things done, Obama said that did not mean he would back down on issues that mattered to him.

"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 said. "That's natural. That's how our democracy works.

"But we can surely find ways to work together on issues where there's broad agreement among the American people."

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