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Obama signals tax cut accord

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivias

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivias

WASHINGTON -- A chastened President Barack Obama signaled a willingness to compromise with Republicans on tax cuts and energy policy Wednesday, one day after his party lost control of the House and suffered deep Senate losses in midterm elections.

Obama ruefully called the Republican victories ''a shellacking'' and acknowledged that his own connection with the public had frayed.

At a White House news conference, the president said that when Congress returns, ''my goal is to make sure we don't have a huge spike in taxes for middle class families.'' He made no mention of his campaign-long insistence that tax cuts be permitted to expire on upper-income families, a position he said would avoid swelling the deficit but put him in conflict with Republicans.

He also virtually abandoned his legislation -- hopelessly stalled in the Senate -- featuring economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, vehicles and other sources.

''I'm going to be looking for other means of addressing this problem,'' he said. ''Cap and trade was just one way of skinning the cat,'' he said, strongly implying there will be others.

In the campaign, Republicans slammed the bill as a ''national energy tax'' and jobs killer, and numerous Democrats sought to emphasize their opposition to the measure during their own re-election races.

The president opened his post-election news conference by saying voters who felt frustrated by the sluggish pace of economic recovery had dictated the Republican takeover in the House.

Asked to reflect on the returns, he said, ''I feel bad,'' adding that many Democrats who went down to defeat had done so knowing they risked their careers to support his agenda of economic stimulus legislation and a landmark health care bill. He blamed himself, in part.

''The relationship that I've had with the American people is one that built slowly, peaked at this incredible high, and then during the course of the last two years, as we've together gone through some very difficult times, has gotten rockier and tougher,'' Obama said.

Criticized at times for appearing detached and aloof, Obama spoke about the challenges he's faced in engaging the American people from the often insular White House.

''When I'm out of this place, that's not an issue,'' Obama said. ''When you're in this place, it is hard not to seem removed.''

Obama also acknowledged that he must repair his relationship with private sector leaders who view him as anti-business, saying that the relationship is one that ''has not been managed by me as well'' as it should have been.

The president said he was eager to sit down with the leaders of both political parties ''and figure out how we can move forward together.''