- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 6, 2014

Despite the GOP landslide in the midterm election, a White House seemingly in denial said Thursday that President Obama has Republicans right where he wants them.

Referring to Mr. Obama several times as “the most powerful person in Washington,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Republicans who’ve been blocking the president’s agenda should use their expanded majorities in Congress to work with him for the good of the country.

“Maybe Republicans will change their tune,” Mr. Earnest said. “Maybe they will decide that they should — based on their own political interest, based on their interest for the country … that they actually want to try to find common ground with the president. And if they do, they will find a very willing partner sitting in the Oval Office.”

He said regardless, Mr. Obama is determined to forge ahead soon with an executive order that would unilaterally grant legal status to illegal immigrants.

House Speaker John A. Boehner said Thursday that would “poison” the president’s chances of finding cooperation with Congress on his agenda.

“When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself,” the Ohio Republican said. “And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”

A new poll of voters who took part in this week’s elections, conducted by GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway found 74 percent said they would prefer Mr. Obama work with Congress on immigration rather than act on his own.

Mr. Boehner said he would like to tackle immigration next year, but wouldn’t commit to holding a vote on it, saying he wanted to talk to his fellow members first.

He didn’t need to survey his colleagues, however, to promise votes on repealing all or parts of Obamacare, and he said he believes there will be bipartisan majorities for some of those smaller changes such as repealing the medical device tax.

The White House said it hoped the GOP’s newfound control over both houses of Congress will make lawmakers feel an obligation to try to rack up accomplishments, which means working with the president on his agenda.

Still, aides acknowledged that the GOP’s strategy of opposing the president’s policies has served Republicans well at the ballot box.

“Look, they got a lot of seats out of it, right?” Mr. Earnest said. “Over the course of the last six years, Republicans in both the House and the Senate went from being in the minority to being in the majority. So they may be able to say with some credibility that they did benefit politically from obstructing the president’s agenda at every turn. I don’t think the country benefited from that, though.”

Mr. Earnest also delved into more detail on the president’s philosophy, which he revealed at a press conference Wednesday, that he must respond not only to voters who unseated Democrats, but also to the two-thirds of Americans who didn’t vote.

Mr. Earnest said “It’s the view of the president … that those individuals were sending a similar message, which is that they feel that Washington has not been sufficiently attuned to the concerns that they have.”

Critics pointed out that during the government shutdown one year ago, Mr. Obama challenged Republicans to “go out there and win an election” rather than close the government in opposition to his policies.

“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president?” Mr. Obama said on Oct. 17, 2013. “Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.”

When asked why such an overwhelming result this week won’t cause Mr. Obama to make a “course correction” and listen to whose who did vote, Mr. Earnest replied, “the electorate skewed Republican [and] more Republicans showed up, but yet … according to the findings of these exit polls, there is strong support for some of the priorities and policies that the president has carried out.”

Mr. Boehner, though, said he’s also listening to the public and following their wishes with his agenda.

“The American people have made it clear they’re not for Obamacare,” he said.

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