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After Midterm Losses, President Obama Takes Off on 10-Day Trip to Asia

A billboard welcomes President Obama in Mumbai

A billboard welcomes President Obama in Mumbai. Photo by Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

After losing between 60 to 64 seats in the House of Representatives and six seats in the Senate, holding the obligatory postmortem press conference and extending an invitation for a bipartisan congressional leadership meeting at the White House, President Obama prepares to leave town for a 10-day trip to Asia.

But before he and Mrs. Obama wave goodbye to the White House at 9:45 a.m. EDT, the president plans to deliver his monthly statement on the jobs report. No issue was more pressing for voters on Tuesday than the economy and jobs.

President Obama also sat down with “60 Minutes” to hash through the election results and the path forward for his administration.

“I think that’s a fair argument. I think that, over the course of two years we were so busy and so focused on getting a bunch of stuff done that, we stopped paying attention to the fact that leadership isn’t just legislation. That it’s a matter of persuading people. And giving them confidence and bringing them together. And setting a tone,” the president told Steve Kroft in an exclusive interview set to air Sunday.

“Making an argument that people can understand,” President Obama continued, “I think that we haven’t always been successful at that. And I take personal responsibility for that. And it’s something that I’ve got to examine carefully…as I go forward.”

As for the president’s trip abroad, trade policy will be a key focus of the trip, and it’s not lost on anybody that his itinerary is meant to send a message to China.

“His tour of economically potent Asian democracies — India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan — is a tacit challenge to the Chinese economic model of a heavy state hand wielded by an unelected government,” writes Scott Wilson of the Washington Post in a preview of the trip.

ALL OVER IN WASHINGTON

Washington state voters are sending the “mom in tennis shoes” back to the U.S. Senate.

On Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray was declared the winner in the Evergreen State’s Senate race, giving her a fourth term and keeping Democratic losses in the midterms to six seats. When the 112th Congress begins in January, Democrats will hold a 53-to-47 majority in the upper chamber.

“Now we have to get to work,” Murray said Thursday night. “I want to make sure Washington state has what it needs to get its economy back on its feet.”

Murray’s Republican opponent, former state senator Dino Rossi, issued a statement after calling Murray to offer his congratulations:

“I ran for the Senate because I believe we need a basic course correction from where Washington, D.C. has been taking us and to make sure this country is as free, as strong and as prosperous in the future as it has been in the past to preserve the best of America for future generations.

“That was a message that found a very receptive audience all across this state, though not quite receptive enough.”

As of Thursday evening, Murray’s lead over Rossi stood at more than 46,000 votes, a 51-to-49 percent margin. That was up from a 14,000-vote advantage on Election Day.

Jim Brunner of the Seattle Times reports that the likelihood of Rossi making up the difference was “virtually impossible”:

“According to a Seattle Times analysis, Rossi would need to get about 54 percent of the estimated 591,000 uncounted ballots statewide to overcome Murray’s lead.

But nearly 264,000 of those ballots are in King County. Murray’s already commanding lead there has only expanded since Election Day. She took 68 percent of the 69,000 King County ballots counted Thursday.

To overcome King County’s heavy support for Murray, Rossi would have to take about two-thirds of the remaining ballots in the rest of the state. So far he’s received 53.2 percent of those non-King County votes.”

The loss was Rossi’s third statewide defeat, having run unsuccessfully for governor in 2004 and 2008.

TRANSITION TO POWER

From NewsHour Capitol Hill Producer Linda Scott: “Everything is on the table,” proclaimed Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, head of the new GOP transition team set to take charge of the House following the party’s huge victory in Tuesday’s election.

Emboldened by the GOP’s “Pledge to America” to curb spending, cuts costs and create jobs, Walden said the House will also look at ways to operate more efficiently and affordably.

“We will evaluate everything from the greening of the Capitol to the cleaning of the Capitol,” he said. He also noted that he’ll reach out to all corners for input. “We’re going to ask people who do their jobs everyday inside the Capitol, ‘How do you think you can do your job more efficiently?'”

Taking his lead from Speaker-in-Waiting John Boehner of Ohio, Walden will also focus on changing the day-to-day operations of the House, with a special emphasis on the restoration of the rules of the minority party, something Republicans bitterly complained about when Democrats were in charge.

Republicans said often that the majority party brought bills for debate to the floor without any input from the other side of the aisle. Walden said that will change. “We’re opening up the process and will return this place back to a legislative body where members can actually participate in lawmaking.”

A yet unnamed 22-member GOP panel, including some newly-elected members, is being assembled to review, discuss and implement these changes in House rules. Its first meeting is Monday night. Walden said its main priorities are to reform Congress and restore trust, one of the basic tenets in the “Pledge to America.” Some other provisions of the pledge include:

  • We will read the bill and require legislation be publicly available at least three days before voting on it.

  • We will ensure an open and bi-partisan debate on all spending bills.

  • We will advance legislative issues one at a time and end the practice of massive bills that address unrelated issues.

Walden said also high on the list is revamping the House work schedule, including setting more efficient use of floor time for debate and committee hearings.

“So often we sit around for hours doing nothing waiting for things to happen,” Walden explained, adding that time is wasted on “go away days scrambling for flights trying to get back to our districts and we haven’t accomplished much. I’m convinced we can save operational costs. There has got to be a better way to run this place.”

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