WASHINGTON (AP) - Flush with new power, congressional Republicans say they'll work with President Barack Obama to cut spending and create jobs - but on their terms.
"We hope President Obama will now respect the will of the people, change course, and commit to making the changes they are demanding," Rep. John Boehner, the next House speaker, said after the midterm election results handed Republicans the majority. "To the extent he is willing to do that, we are ready to work with him."
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who will lead a strengthened GOP minority, made clear that the party's 2012 strategy for the presidential race begins with daring Obama to veto bills that create jobs or cut the government's spending, size and reach.
"The surest way to achieve all of them is to elect a president who won't veto any of them," the Kentucky Republican said.
Two other Republicans, including likely new majority leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, called the elections a "second chance." Cantor and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who also won a new term, also said Wednesday morning that the public should go expect the GOP-run House to focus heavily on legislation to curb federal spending, lower the deficit and create jobs.
"A constitutional amendment (to balance the budget) takes years and years to happen," Cantor said on CBS's "The Early Show."
"I don't think the American people are going to wait that long," he said. "And I think what you'll see out of the Republican-led House is a regular diet of bills coming out to the floor to cut the deficit."
The midterm elections that returned House control to the GOP after four years was a rebuke to Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, their stewardship of the struggling economy, their overhaul of the nation's health care system, and more.
Obama made no promises. But he called Boehner and McConnell around midnight to congratulate them, the White House said. Obama spoke more generally of working with Republicans to "find common ground, move the country forward and get things done for the American people."
Pelosi, meanwhile, remained defiant to the end. The Californian issued a statement early Wednesday saluting Democratic candidates who took tough votes, which proved unpopular, to shore up the economy.
"The outcome of the election does not diminish the work we have done for the American people," she said, urging Republicans and Democrats to work together "to create jobs, reduce the deficit and move our nation forward."
She did not say whether she wants to continue to lead the Democrats in the next Congress.
The Republican gains in Tuesday's elections foretold certain conflict with Obama over taxes, job creation, government regulation and the president's $814 billion economic stimulus program. Republicans were shifting the conversation from spending to cutting by vowing to slash about $100 billion from the tabs of recession-weary taxpayers.
"Keep your eyes on the prize," Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, expected to become majority leader, told his supporters in Richmond, Va.
Controlling the House will shine a harsher light on rifts within Republican ranks, however.
GOP leaders will have to quickly deal with differences over earmarks, the much-derided special funding that lawmakers mark for hometown projects. Tea party candidates who railed against "back-room deals" may find themselves confronted with the reality that dealmaking - even compromise - is often the only way to change policy. McConnell and Boehner, especially, could face a difficult time managing the same freshmen rebels who boosted their party's power on the Hill.
Among entrenched veterans, the election returns sparked an almost immediate scramble for leadership posts.
Much of the palace intrigue centered in the House. With Boehner at the helm, Cantor, 47, should move up from the vote-counting whip to majority leader. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Californian who led the drafting of the GOP's "Pledge to America," will replace Cantor.
Boehner earlier this fall used his amiability to quash any talk of Cantor challenging him for speaker after the Virginia Republican, McCarthy and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin published a book about how they'd run the House in a post-Boehner era.
"The three of them know that my job is to make sure that they're well-qualified and ready to take my place," Boehner said with a semiserious grin at a book party, "at the appropriate moment."
Should Pelosi step down, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is considered the front-runner to replace her as Democratic leader. That would make room for a roster of rising Democrats to run for leadership positions.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comeback win in Nevada likely kills a Democratic leadership race for the top spot that had been simmering between his deputies, Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York.