JIM LEHRER: And now to today’s news conferences — first, the Republicans.
House speaker-to-be John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour held their event at the Capitol. Here are excerpts.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), House Minority Leader: As you heard me say last night, we are humbled by the trust that the American people have placed in us.
And we recognize this is a time for us to roll up our sleeves and go to work on the people’s priorities: creating jobs, cutting spending and reforming the way Congress does its business.
It’s not what — it’s not just what the American people are demanding, it’s what they are expecting from us. And the real question now is this: Are we going to listen to the American people?
Republicans have made a pledge to America, and our pledge is to listen to the American people and to focus on their priorities. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
Last night, the president was kind enough to call me. We discussed working together on the American peoples’ priorities: cutting spending, creating jobs. And we hope that he will continue to be willing to work with us on those priorities.
But, as I said last night, the new majority here in Congress will be the voice of the American people, and I think we clearly expressed that last night. We’re going to continue and renew our efforts for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government here in Washington, D.C.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), Minority Leader: We’re determined to stop the agenda Americans have rejected and to turn the ship around.
We’ll work with the administration when they agree with the people and confront them when they don’t. Choosing — I think what our friends on the other side learned is that choosing the president over your constituents is not a good strategy.
This election yesterday was clearly a referendum on the administration and the Democratic majority here in the Congress. Ignoring the voters and their wishes, as you could see during the entire two-year period, produces predictable results.
I would say to our friends on the other side of the aisle — and listening to what they have had to say this morning, they may have missed the message somewhat. I get the impression they’re thinking — their view is that we haven’t cooperated enough.
I think what the American people were saying yesterday is that they appreciated us saying no to the things that the American people indicated they were not in favor of.
So I think the group that should hopefully get the message out of yesterday’s elections is our friends on the other side of the aisle. And we hope that they will pivot in a different direction, work with us on things like spending and debt and trade agreements and nuclear power and clean coal technology and other things the president said that he’s for that most of my members are for.
GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R-Miss.): On behalf of the Republican governors, while governor’s races may be thought of as being separate or very different from what’s going on in Washington, in this case, even in governor’s races, this election was a referendum on Obama’s policies. And the policies of the Obama administration, the Pelosi-Reid Congress were repudiated by the voters.
Governors — and I would say a lot of Democratic governors, I believe, will agree with this — going forward, governors believe that we can work with the Congress to try to set things in a better direction.
QUESTION: How do you see yourself integrating all this Tea Party activism into the structure of the House?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: What — what unites us as Republicans will be the agenda of the American people. And if we’re listening to the American people, I don’t see any problems incorporating members of the tea party along with our party in the quest that’s really the same.
QUESTION: Mr. Boehner, Mr. Leader, I know that all of you — and, Senator McConnell, this is for you, too — I know that all of you have been reading about ’94 and how — you know, the mistakes and pitfalls of your colleagues that you were actually part of. I wonder how — what are the lessons you take away from that? How will you govern differently this time?
And, Senator McConnell, how does it affect what you will do in the Senate since you don’t have a majority now?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Well, I think clearly the election yesterday did not transfer full control of the government to the opposition. It was a first step in the direction of changing what we’ve been doing in Washington.
There are two opportunities for that change to occur. Our friends on the other side can change now and work with us to address the issues that are important to the American people, that we all understood. Or further change, obviously, can happen in 2012.
QUESTION: We know that House Republicans are pledged to repeal and replace the president’s health care reform. You’ve got an upcoming appropriations process. Do you plan to try and use that appropriations process to defund the — the reform law?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Listen, I believe that the health care bill that was enacted by the current Congress will kill jobs in America, ruin the best health care system in the world, and bankrupt our country.
That means that we have to do everything we can to try to repeal this bill and replace it with commonsense reforms that’ll bring down the cost of health insurance.
QUESTION: Leader Boehner, next Congress looks like one of the first early tests will be increasing the debt limit. Tea Party — the wave of Tea Party candidates, they’ll likely oppose that. How will you work with them to achieve that?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: We’ll be working that out over the next couple of months.
QUESTION: Mr. Boehner, there is, you know, differing points of view in your conference about what to do about earmarks, what to do about the debt limit. Mr. Cantor and Mr. McCarthy have said they’re going to have a vote up or down to raise or not raise the debt limit here.
How are you going to be able to operationally do some of these things when there are competing factions in your conference on what to do on key issues?
REP. JOHN BOEHNER: Well, that’s what the transition’s for, give us a little time to figure out how we do those big things that need to be done on behalf of the American people.