At a White House news conference the president said that when Congress returns, "my goal is to make sure we don't have a huge spike in taxes for middle class families." He made no mention of his campaign-long insistence that tax cuts be permitted to expire on upper-income families, a position that put him in conflict with Republicans.
He also virtually abandoned his legislation - hopelessly stalled in the Senate - featuring economic incentives to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, vehicles and other sources.
"I'm going to be looking for other means of addressing this problem," he said. "Cap and trade was one way to skin the cat," he said, strongly implying there will be others.
In the campaign, Republicans slammed the bill as a "national energy tax" and jobs killer, and numerous Democrats sought to emphasize their opposition to the measure during their own re-election races.
The president opened his post-election news conference by saying voters who felt frustrated by the sluggish pace of economic recovery had dictated the Republican takeover in the House.
Asked to reflect on the returns, he said, "I feel bad," adding that many Democrats who went down to defeat had done so knowing they risked their careers to support his agenda of economic stimulus legislation and a landmark health care bill.
The president said he was eager to sit down with the leaders of both political parties "and figure out how we can move forward together."
"It won't be easy," he said, noting the two parties differ profoundly in some key areas.