Minority Republicans in Congress are claiming a major victory in Tuesday's Massachusetts special election, which put Republican Scott Brown in the U.S. Senate seat once occupied by the late Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy. Republicans describe the result, giving them 41 of 100 seats in the Senate, as a rejection of the way President Barack Obama has gone about pursuing his domestic agenda, particularly on the issue of health-care reform.
On both sides of the Capitol, in the House and Senate, Republicans rejoiced over what they see as a possibly game-changing election in Massachusetts.
A serious political blow to Democrats a year into President Barack Obama's first term, the result came as Democratic leaders struggle to come up with a plan to reconcile differences between House and Senate-passed health care bills.
In separate news conferences, Republicans asserted that Massachusetts voters reflected a frustration among Americans with President Obama's push for health-care reform when so many remain out of work, and with huge government spending.
Mike Pence is a Republican from Indiana. "We ask [House of Representatives] Speaker Pelosi to heed the voice of the American people," he said. "To end their fiscal recklessness, their big government schemes, and let us focus on creating jobs, putting America back to work, and putting our own fiscal house in order."
Pence, who news reports say may be considering a run for the Indiana Senate seat now occupied by Democrat Evin Bayh, said Republicans remain open to hearing President Obama when he addresses their party conference in Baltimore.
Where health-care reform is concerned, House minority leader John Boehner insisted again that Republican attempts to work with Democrats on health care have been rebuffed.
"We have made it clear that we are open [to bipartisanship]," he said. "But there has been no attempt, not one attempt, by the administration or the Democrats in Congress, to actually sit down and work with us."
Republicans in the Senate, who with the Massachusetts election result have now broken the 60-vote majority Democrats enjoyed with the help of two Independent senators, sounded similar triumphant notes.
Health-care reform at stake
Asked how achieving a 41st Senate Republican seat, which would allow them to block Democrats on legislation, will impact health-care reform Republican leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes the health care legislation as it currently exists is dead.
"I sure hope so," he said. "What we ought to do, as I said repeatedly, through the month of December, as you know we were here every day, we ought to stop and start over and go step by step to concentrate on fixing the problem which is the rising cost [of the legislation] and we laid out a series of things that we thought would address the cost problem without having the government take over one sixth of our economy."
House Democrats face some gut-wrenching decisions as they work to devise a legislative way forward on President Obama's health care reform agenda.
On Tuesday, before the Massachusetts election results were in, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi insisted Democrats remain on course to resolve differences between the House and Senate bills.
"We are right on course, we will have a health-are reform bill, and it will be soon," she said.
The job will not be easy, with the most liberal House Democrats opposed to the House merely taking up the Senate-passed health bill, aspects of which they strongly disagree with.
New York Representative Anthony Weiner, a strong proponent of a government-run health insurance option that now will likely not be in legislation, said Democrats need to recognize what he called "an entirely different scenario" after the Massachusetts election.
"When you have large numbers of citizens in the United States of America who believe this is going in the wrong direction, there is a limit to which you can keep saying that, OK they just do not get it, if we just pass a bill they will get it," he said. "No, no. I mean I think that we should maybe internalize that we are not doing things entirely correctly."
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid said he looks forward to working with incoming Republican Senator Scott Brown, but said Democrats will press ahead with health-care reform.