As a result, Wednesday began the unveiling of a more conciliatory House GOP pledging compromise and cooperation in the face of an altered Washington landscape that is suddenly more Democratic. Gone was the harsh rhetoric of the 2011 fiscal showdowns, and in its place was a declared willingness to consider raising tax revenue as part of a larger debt deal that would include entitlement reform and deficit reduction.
Tuesday’s results showed poor performances by GOP candidates with Latino voters up and down the ballot, and some Republicans on Wednesday signaled a willingness to strike a comprehensive immigration deal, even if it sparks anger among conservative activists.
More broadly, House GOP leaders hinted that the days of partisan brinksmanship may be over. “We’re ready to be led, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans,” House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, suggesting that he would work with Obama on fiscal issues immediately and others in the long term. “We want you to lead — not as a liberal or a conservative, but as the president of the United States of America. We want you to succeed.”
That tone is a long way from remarks two years ago by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who called Obama’s reelection defeat his top priority.
The question in the next Congress, as it was in the previous, is whether Boehner has enough muscle or capital to muster the requisite votes to make him a reliable negotiator.
The speaker held a conference call Wednesday afternoon with GOP lawmakers to brief them about the election and how they would approach the months ahead. Some Republicans embraced a new direction, seeing a demographic shift that has left the House GOP isolated and shrinking while Democrats picked up Senate races and retained the White House.
“Republicans got worked. Republicans got worked,” Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who won a second term Tuesday, said in a telephone interview. He warned that the party could turn into “the Lions Club: going to the same meeting every week, with fewer and fewer people.”
Some others read the situation differently, seeing a new imperative for House Republicans to stand strong against Obama’s agenda in the face of a Mitt Romney defeat.
“My candidate just got waxed. And I understand that there will be people saying, ‘The message is, we should raise taxes.’ Even if that’s the mandate . . . that’s not an option that’s on the table for us,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who is also a member of the influential Class of 2010.