Democrats, Bush talk nice after 'thumpin' '
CHICAGO -- As the extent of the Democratic rout became apparent Wednesday with Republicans losing control of the Senate, President Bush promised to work with the new leaders of Congress. Democrats moved quickly to consolidate power and pushed for...
CHICAGO -- As the extent of the Democratic rout became apparent Wednesday with Republicans losing control of the Senate, President Bush promised to work with the new leaders of Congress. Democrats moved quickly to consolidate power and pushed for a new path in Iraq.
"I'm, obviously, disappointed with the outcome of the election, and as the head of the Republican Party, I share a large part of the responsibility," said Bush, who described the results as "a thumpin." "I told my party's leaders that it is now our duty to put the elections behind us and work together with the Democrats and independents on the great issues facing this country."
At the top of that list is the war in Iraq, and Democratic leaders expressed a measure of conciliation toward Bush and the Republicans as they began to lay out their agenda.
"This is something that we must work on together with the president," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., who is expected to be the next speaker of the House, replacing Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who will become the Senate majority leader, said the election confirmed Democrats' call for a change in direction, particularly on Iraq.
"Without getting into the details of what we want to do legislatively, the main point is that we want to do things on a bipartisan basis," Reid said.
Bush acknowledged the need for some sort of change regarding the war when he fired Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
"I recognize that many Americans voted last night to register their displeasure with the lack of progress being made," Bush said. "Yet I also believe most Americans -- and leaders here in Washington from both political parties -- understand we cannot accept defeat."
The historic midterm election provided a sharp rebuke to Bush and his policies, as well as a congressional Republican leadership that allowed runaway federal spending and seemed to condone ethical lapses throughout its ranks.
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, for example, said it was time for Republicans to look in the mirror and reflect on where they went wrong.
"Over the last several years, Republicans have experimented with big government, and we have now seen the result," he said, pointing to the war in Iraq, scandals and unnecessary pork-barrel spending projects.
In the House, Republicans lost 29 seats, Democrats gained 30 and several races were still being counted or recounted the day after the election.
The new balance of power in Washington immediately kicked off behind-the-scenes battles for power in the ranks of Democratic and Republican House members.
Hastert, for example, said he would not seek a Republican leadership post after he hands the gavel over to Pelosi. But House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, is expected to face challenges for the top GOP leadership spot from Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and possibly Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.
"I am running for Republican leader, because I believe that we did not just lose our majority -- we lost our way," Pence wrote in a letter to Republican colleagues Wednesday. "We are in the wilderness because we walked away from the limited government principles that minted the Republican Congress."
On the other side of the aisle, the Democratic whip, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, announced he would run for House majority leader, touting his skills as a vote counter, as well as his role in bringing Democrats to the majority.
"We have a two-year period in which to demonstrate that we can govern and lead -- and our success will be critical to our ability to retain the majority," Hoyer, who is expecting a challenge from Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., said in a letter to colleagues.