Obama concedes defeat in House, pledges to work with Republicans | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 03.11.2010
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Obama concedes defeat in House, pledges to work with Republicans

President Barack Obama admits that he took a beating in the mid-term elections as Republicans storm into the House of Representatives. The Democrats manage to keep a slim majority in the Senate.

The Capitol and House of Representatives, with autumn leaves in foreground

The balance of power is shifting in the US Congress

US Republicans won a huge majority in the House of Representatives in midterm elections, delivering a blow President Barack Obama described as a "shellacking."

"I am not recommending for every future president that they take a shellacking like I did last night," Obama said in a news conference on Wednesday. "I am sure there are easier ways to learn these lessons."

The conservative Republican Party gained at least 60 seats in the House of Representatives, the biggest shift of Congressional power since 1948 and more than enough to win control of the 435-member lower chamber.

John Boehner casting his vote

John Boehner is set to become the new House Speaker

The vote toppled Democrat Nancy Pelosi from her position as Speaker of the House, leaving Ohio Republic and House Minority Leader John Boehner ready to fill the position.

Speaking as almost all of the polls across the country had closed, Boehner pledged to cut government spending. In a victory rally at the Republican Party's headquarters in Washington, he said that Americans had sent a clear message for Obama to "change course."

"Our new majority will be prepared to do things differently," Boehner said. "It starts with cutting spending instead of increasing it, reducing the size of government instead of increasing it, and reforming the way Congress works."

President Obama placed a congratulatory phone call to Boehner on Tuesday evening, saying he looked forward to working together with Boehner to find common ground and move the country forward.

Breakdown of US Congressional votes

Environmental legislation on hold

However, Republican control of the house could lead to legislative gridlock. Obama acknowledged that Democratic plans for a "cap-and-trade" system - charging industry for carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global climate change - would have to be put off for at least the next two years.

"It's doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year, or next year, or the year after," Obama said. "Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat… It was a means, not an end."

Republicans made gains in the Senate, where 37 out of 100 upper house seats were at stake. With three seats still too close to call on Wednesday, Democrats took a net loss of 6 seats for 51, while Republicans took 46.

Barack Obama

Obama and the Democrats kept hold of the Senate

Democrats were helped by a victory for Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, who won his seat with about 50 percent of the vote. Reid was challenged by Sharron Angle, backed by the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement.

Democrats were not so lucky in Florida, where Republican Marco Rubio became the first Tea Party-backed candidate to win a Senate seat. But another Tea Party favorite - controversial Senate candidate for Delaware, Christine O'Donnell - lost her race.

Comfortable majority in lower house

Although much of the debate leading up to the election focused on anxiety about the US economy, the increased number of Republican seats in Congress may also have foreign policy implications.

Spending on development could be blocked in the lower house and Republican gains in the Senate are likely to make it more difficult for the Obama administration to ratify international treaties.

It is thought that the Republicans could use their enhanced platform in Congress to frustrate aspects of Obama's foreign policy, for instance, by opposing any peace deal in Afghanistan that would bring the Taliban to the negotiating table.

Of the 50 states in the union, 37 also elected a new governor. California voters elected Democrat Jerry Brown, who served as governor in the 1970s and 80s, replacing Austrian-born actor-turned-politician Arnold Schwarzenegger. The state also rejected a proposal to decriminalize recreational marijuana.

Authors: Andrew Bowen, Richard Connor, Matt Zuvela (dpa, Reuters, AP)
Editor: Michael Lawton

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