Bush To Seek Common Ground with Democrats Following Election

By Stephen Kaufman and David McKeeby
Washington File Staff Writers

Washington - Acknowledging Republican Party losses in U.S. midterm elections, President Bush expressed confidence that he will be able to find “common ground” with the confirmed Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives and the potential Democratic majority in the Senate on issues such as Iraq, immigration, education and the economy.

Speaking at the White House November 8, Bush also announced that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is resigning and will be replaced by former CIA Director Robert Gates.

A total of 227 Democratic candidates from across the United States won their elections to the 435-member House of Representatives, in which Republicans have held a majority since 1994.  The party also made significant gains in the Senate, although outright majority status in the chamber has yet to be decided, pending the outcome of the Virginia Senate race.

The new 110th Congress will be sworn into office in January 2007. The 109th Congress, including many members defeated in the midterm elections, will reconvene on November 13 to complete business left unfinished when members recessed for the elections.

The president said he was disappointed at the outcome of the elections – an outcome he said was due partly to concerns over congressional ethics.  He also acknowledged that there was “no question” that concern among Americans over the U.S. military intervention in Iraq “had something to do with it” as well.  

However, Bush warned those who consider themselves enemies of the United States not to “be joyful” because of the election results, because both Democrats and Republicans “understand we cannot accept defeat” in Iraq.

The president said terrorists should “not confuse the workings of our democracies with a lack of will. Our nation is committed to bringing you to justice.  Liberty and democracy are the source of America's strength, and liberty and democracy will lift up the hopes and desires of those you're trying to destroy,” he said.

Bush also pledged that the United States would continue to stand with the Iraqi people.  “We know you want a better way of life, and now is the time to seize it,” he said.


In announcing Rumsfeld’s resignation, the president said “sometimes it's necessary to have a fresh perspective,” adding “Bob Gates will bring a fresh perspective.”

“Now, after a series of thoughtful conversations, Secretary Rumsfeld and I agreed that the timing is right for new leadership at the Pentagon," he said.

Bush said he will listen to the views of Democratic leaders on Iraq and looks forward to the publication of a report by the Iraq Study Group led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton. The report is scheduled to be released before the end of 2006.

Bush telephoned Democratic House and Senate leaders following the election and said he intends to work with the new Congress “in a bipartisan way” to address issues confronting this country,” such as minimum wage, entitlements, education, and immigration reform.  He also invited them to come to the White House to discuss pending legislation for 2006, as well as to begin discussing the legislative agenda for 2007.

“By putting this election and partisanship behind us, we can launch a new era of cooperation and make these next two years productive ones for the American people,” he said.


Representative Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who is expected to become the new leader of the House in the wake of her party’s electoral victory, told reporters November 8 that the Democrats were committed to working with the White House toward “a new direction in Iraq” and enacting a host of domestic reforms.

New leadership positions will be formally filled at the beginning of the 110th Congress.

“Yesterday, the beauty and the genius of our democracy, the American people spoke with their votes, and they spoke for change and they spoke in support of a new direction for all Americans,” Pelosi said, and she pledged “civility and bipartisanship” on behalf of her party, as well as “partnership … and not partisanship” with President Bush and the Republicans in Congress.

Pelosi has served in the House of Representatives since 1987 and as the leader of House Democrats since 2002.  She is the first woman in U.S. history to lead a major party in Congress and if selected, will be the first female speaker of the House, a powerful congressional position that controls the law-making body’s legislative agenda and is behind only the vice president in the line of succession to the presidency.

On Iraq, Pelosi said that American voters sent a clear message to Washington that they want Democrats and Republicans to “work together in a bipartisan way to send a clear message to the Iraqi government and people” to disarm the militias, continue with their constitutional reforms and step up engagement with their neighbors to promote stability and reconstruction. 

She added that Democrats also would support “responsible redeployments outside of Iraq” of U.S. forces in the name of helping the Iraqi people strengthen its new, independent democracy.

“The American people, with their votes yesterday, placed their trust in the Democrats, Pelosi added, “We will honor that trust.  We will not disappoint.”

A transcript of the Bush press conference is available on the White House Web site.