Rep. John Boehner Says President Obama and Democrats in 'Denial'

Photo: Diane Sawyer interviews John Boehner
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Republican Rep. John Boehner, the likely next speaker of the House of Representatives, says he believes President Obama does not fully comprehend the meaning of the GOP landslide in the midterm elections.

"There seems to be some denial on the part of the president and other Democratic leaders of the message that was sent by the American people," Boehner said today in an interview with ABC News' Diane Sawyer. "When you have the most historic election in over 60, 70 years, you would think the other party would understand that the American people have clearly repudiated the policies they've put forward in the last two years."

Obama told reporters at a press conference Wednesday the election results proved that people around the country are primarily frustrated with the state of the economy, not the administration's legislative achievements on the stimulus, health care overhaul or financial reform.

Watch Diane Sawyer's the exclusive interview with Rep. John Boehner tonight on "World News."

Republicans gained at least 60 House seats in Tuesday's midterm election, decisively knocking Democrats and current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from power and setting the stage for Boehner to assume one of government's most powerful leadership roles.

But the future speaker said he does not agree with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said today Republicans' number one priority should be making Obama a one-term president.

"That's Senator McConnell's statement and his opinion," Boehner said. "I think the American people want us to focus on their message during the election: stop the spending, get rid of the uncertainty. Let's get around to creating jobs again and staying focused on what the American people want us to focus on is my number one priority."

Boehner said today he harbors no "personal animosity" towards the president, whom he has not had many opportunities to get to know. He said he does not want philosophical differences to lead to gridlock or squabbling in their relationship.

Asked whether he would agree to what Obama has jokingly called a "slurpee summit," Boehner replied, "I don't know about a slurpee. How about a glass of merlot?"

Tea Party Threat to GOP?

Boehner is poised to play a key role in setting legislative priorities on jobs, taxes and the deficit in the next Congress. He has also promised to pursue the repeal and replacement of the landmark health care legislation passed in March.

"I'm pretty confident that come next year that we will have the votes to repeal that [health care] bill and replace it with common sense reforms to bring down the cost of health insurance and expand access," Boehner told Sawyer.

But making any progress his priorities will require the ability to find common ground with President Obama and Democrats – a task history has shown will be difficult.

A 20-year veteran of the House and the fiery leader of the House Republicans for the last four years, Boehner has made a name for himself as one of the most high-profile and spirited rhetorical opponents of outgoing House Speaker Pelosi and Obama.

Boehner is expected to join Pelosi, McConnell and Majority Leader Harry Reid for a meeting with Obama at the White House on Nov. 18 to find common ground and develop a new agenda going forward.

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