GOP taking charge, is eager to move on Keystone XL, taxes

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Boehner: GOP Majorities Will Move Issues Forward

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Republicans' resounding victory gives them an opportunity to push legislation that's been bottled up in the Democratic Senate, from targeting elements of President Barack Obama's health care law to constructing the Keystone XL oil pipeline to rolling back environmental regulations.

Democrats suffered an electoral drubbing in Tuesday's midterms, and Republicans regained control of the Senate and widely expanded their majority in the House. In command in both chambers in January, Republicans maintained that they have to show they can govern or else voters will show them the door.

"We now have the votes and we have the ability to call the agenda, so stop name-calling and let's actually produce some legislation that helps jobs and the economy and moves our country forward," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, said in an interview. "I think the country has figured that out, and they've given us the mandate to do it, and we better produce, or they'll kick us out too."

House Republicans are counting on Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in line to be the next Senate majority leader, to move ahead on the dozens of jobs bills that have been passed by the House but remained stalled in the Senate.

"It's jobs, jobs, jobs," said Rep. Randy Weber, R-Texas, who also wants to lift the ban on crude oil exports.

Republicans also are counting on a swift vote early next year on building the Keystone XL pipeline to carry oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast now that Republicans clearly have the numbers in the Senate. The GOP could have as many as 54 Senate seats if Republican Dan Sullivan prevails in Alaska and the party wins a Dec. 6 runoff in Louisiana. The House majority could reach historic levels of 250 out of 435 seats.

"It's in our best interest to show we can function and that we can lead responsibly, and that would involve getting bills that have already passed the House with bipartisan support and get Democrats to join us in the Senate and get those to the president, even something like trade," said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

McConnell signaled Wednesday that he could work with Obama on trade agreements and a tax overhaul as both sides look toward governing rather than gridlock.

It won't be easy. Many of the moderate Democrats who would be willing to compromise were defeated in Tuesday's elections, reducing the number of lawmakers in the middle. In the next Congress, independent Sen. Angus King of Maine and moderate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Jon Tester of Montana will hold considerable leverage.

Republicans will be under pressure from many in their ranks and outside conservatives to scrap the health care law, but McConnell and the more pragmatic GOP lawmakers acknowledge that is next to impossible because of Obama's veto power.

"If I had the ability, obviously, I'd get rid of it," McConnell said of the Affordable Care Act as he spoke to reporters at a news conference in Kentucky. "Obviously, it's also true he's still there."

McConnell indicated the GOP would push for a repeal of the tax on medical devices, which has some Democratic support, and target the requirement that individuals sign up for health insurance or face a penalty.

Obama told reporters that ending the individual mandate was a nonstarter, calling it a "line I can't cross" because it would unravel the law.

Further complicating the relationship between Obama and the newly empowered Republicans is the president's vow to act unilaterally before year's end to reduce the number of deportations and grant work permits to millions of immigrants illegally in the United States.

"What I'm not going to do is just wait," the president said as bipartisan, comprehensive immigration legislation that the Senate passed in June 2013 remained stalled in the House.

McConnell and other Republicans said such a step would be an in-your-face affront to the new majority GOP - "like waving a red flag in front of a bull," McConnell said - and Republicans would use spending bills to restrict or stop such executive action.

Several Republicans hold the deep-seated view that Obama already has been abusing his constitutional authority. "He doesn't get the line-item veto to unilaterally change different tenets of the law after he signs the law," Weber said of Obama's moves to delay provisions of the health care law.

On energy, McConnell was already exploring ways to derail Obama's plans to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming from coal-fired power plants, a maneuver that some Democrats from coal states are likely to support but that the president would likely veto.

Pro-energy Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska is expected to chair the Senate Energy Committee, and Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, who rejects the scientific consensus that global warming is being caused by fossil fuels, will likely lead the environment panel.

On the Keystone Pipeline, White House spokesman Josh Earnest reiterated Thursday that the administration will wait on the Nebraska Supreme Court to rule on a dispute about the pipeline's route through the state before completing an evaluation of the pipeline. "Once some of those things are resolved, then the State Department can do their work evaluating whether or not this pipeline is in the national interest of Americans," he said on CNN.

The Senate turnover from Democrats to Republicans could also complicate efforts by the U.S. to broker a new international deal to curb global warming that is legally enforceable, because a Republican-controlled Senate would be unlikely to ratify it.

"There is no way to dance around the issue that in too many races we lost good allies," said Michael Brune, head of the Sierra Club. "And we will see them replaced by people who oppose our values."

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GOP taking charge, is eager to move on Keystone XL, taxes
UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 6: Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, holds his first press conference in the Capitol on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014, following the Republican wave midterm elections. Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
FILE- These 2014 file photos show, from left, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. They will be the top three players in political Washington for the next two years: President Barack Obama, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner. (AP Photo, File)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014. Boehner said the Republican-controlled Congress will act to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, make changes in the health care law and encourage businesses to hire more veterans. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky holds a news conference on the day after the GOP gained enough seats to control the Senate in next year's Congress and make McConnell majority leader, in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. With sweeping victories that exceeded their own sky-high expectations, Republicans dealt the Democrats and President Barack Obama the most devastating electoral defeat of his presidency, gaining the power to shape the direction of America's government in the next two years. His first meeting with reporters since winning a sixth term in the midterm election, the senator was speaking at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center for political studies. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. Obama is holding an afternoon news conference Wednesday to share his take on the midterm election results after his party lost control of the Senate, and lost more turf in the GOP-controlled House while putting a series of Democratic-leaning states under control of new Republican governors. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama smiles at a reporter after saying that he's missed speaking to the reporters, as he is asked a question during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. Obama is holding an afternoon news conference Wednesday to share his take on the midterm election results after his party lost control of the Senate, and lost more turf in the GOP-controlled House while putting a series of Democratic-leaning states under control of new Republican governors. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 05: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks to the media during a news conference in the East Room a day after Democrats lost the US Senate Majority, November 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Yesterday Republicans won the majority of the US Senate for the first time in 8 years after Americans went to the polls and voted in the mid-term elections. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama enters a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. Obama is holding an afternoon news conference Wednesday to share his take on the midterm election results after his party lost control of the Senate, and lost more turf in the GOP-controlled House while putting a series of Democratic-leaning states under control of new Republican governors. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky holds a news conference on the day after the GOP gained enough seats to control the Senate in next year's Congress and make McConnell majority leader, in Louisville, Ky., Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. With sweeping victories that exceeded their own sky-high expectations, Republicans dealt the Democrats and President Barack Obama the most devastating electoral defeat of his presidency, gaining the power to shape the direction of America's government in the next two years. His first meeting with reporters since winning a sixth term in the midterm election, the senator was speaking at the University of Louisville's McConnell Center for political studies. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama pause during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. Obama is standing by his pledge to act on his own to reduce deportations and improve border security by the end of the year. Obama says he will take his own steps despite election results that gave Republicans control of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the East Room of the White House November 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama spoke about last nights midterm election where Republicans maintained control of the House of Representatives and took control of the Senate. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, arrives to speak at a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Confronting Republican control of both houses of Congress for the first time during his administration, President Obama faces a dilemma: how to fight when there's political value while at the same time trying to rebuild bridges to lawmakers in the party. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the East Room of the White House on November 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama held the press conference one day after his Democratic party was defeated in midterm elections. President Obama congratulated his Republican opponents Wednesday on their midterm election victory and promised to work constructively with them in Congress for the next two years.'Obviously, Republicans had a good night and they deserve credit for running good campaigns,' he said, after Republicans took control of the Senate and strengthened their hold on the House of Representatives. AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, arrives to speak at a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. Confronting Republican control of both houses of Congress for the first time during his administration, President Obama faces a dilemma: how to fight when there's political value while at the same time trying to rebuild bridges to lawmakers in the party. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 05: U.S. President Barack Obama walks away after speaking to the media during a news conference in the East Room a day after Democrats lost the US Senate Majority, November 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Yesterday Republicans won the majority of the US Senate for the first time in 8 years after Americans went to the polls and voted in the mid-term elections. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014, in Washington. Obama says he'll certainly be spending more time with McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner (BAY'-nur), adding that's the only way the White House and Congress will be able to get anything done. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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