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Senate Republican leader vows to roll back Obama agenda

By the CNN Wire Staff
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McConnell: Voters out of love with Dems
  • NEW: McConnell tells CNN that election results show President Obama must change
  • White House spokesman says compromise doesn't mean everyone gets all they want
  • The elections were a report card, and Democrats "got an F," Mitch McConnell says
  • Republicans made big gains in both the House and Senate in elections this week

Washington (CNN) -- Republicans wrested control of the House from President Barack Obama and the Democrats this week, and their next goal is to take the White House, their leader in the Senate said Thursday.

If the Republicans want to achieve their goals of repealing health care reform, ending bailouts, cutting spending and reducing the size of government, "the only way to do all these things it is to put someone in the White House who won't veto any of these things," Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said in a speech at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

McConnell made clear that his party sees little room for compromise with Obama and the Democrats, saying voters were calling for a change in direction, rather than a middle ground.

"We can hope the president will start listening to the electorate after Tuesday's election. But we can't plan on it," said McConnell, who was recently quoted as saying his goal is to ensure that Obama will be a one-term president. "I don't want the president to fail. I want him to change."

In an interview with CNN later Thursday, McConnell reiterated that it is Obama who has to shift direction, saying: "If the president will simply listen to the American people, we can do some business."

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The Republicans failed to capture control of the Senate this week, leaving McConnell the minority leader, but they're riding high on a gain of at least six seats there and 10 times that many in the House.

"For the past two years, Democrat lawmakers chose to ignore the American people, so on Tuesday the American people chose new lawmakers," McConnell said.

"The White House has a choice: They can change course or they can double down on a vision of government that the American people have roundly rejected," he said.

In response, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Thursday that voters wanted politicians in Washington to work together to solve the nation's problems, not continue taking intractable positions to score political points.

"You're certainly not going to make progress in a divided government saying 'my way or the highway,'" Gibbs said, noting that Obama has called McConnell and other congressional leaders to a November 18 meeting to discuss legislative priorities. Consensus on issues "is not going to be 100 percent of what anybody wants," Gibbs added.

In his speech, McConnell conceded that the elections were not about the Republicans.

"They were about the Democrats. They got a report card. They got an F," he said.

"Americans voted for change in the last two elections because of two long and difficult wars and because they hoped a changing of the guard would stabilize the economy and get America moving again," McConnell added. But, he said, "Democrat leaders used the crisis of the moment to advance an agenda Americans didn't ask for and couldn't afford."

In particular, McConnell lambasted the health care reform bill passed by Democrats after a bitter legislative fight that lasted more than a year.

"Health care legislation is the worst bill that was passed in my time in the Senate," said McConnell, who was elected in 1984. He called the Wall Street reform bill intended to bring transparency and consumer protections to the financial services industry almost as bad.

McConnell has promised a non-stop effort to repeal the health care bill, in an apparent strategy to force Democrats to record votes in favor of the measure that can be cited in the 2012 election campaign.

With Democrats still controlling the Senate, the chances of a repeal making it through Congress are considered highly unlikely. Even if that happened, Obama's veto power adds another formidable barrier against a repeal measure succeeding.

Gibbs said he doubted that Obama would have to veto a repeal effort, saying: "I honestly don't think it will come to that."

He noted that exit polling showed half the voters Tuesday supported the health care bill, and that most people who cited the measure as an important issue supported the Democratic Party.

CNN's Richard Allen Greene and Tom Cohen contributed to this story.