WASHINGTON A subdued President Barack Obama acknowledged the drubbing his Democratic Party took at the polls Tuesday, promising to work harder to build consensus after Republicans captured control of the House of Representatives and expanded their voice in the Senate. Obama now faces the prospect of shared government in Washington for the balance of his term, and the unusual balancing act that comes with a divided Congress. He said he has got to take direct responsibility for the failure of the country to make as much progress as needed in repairing the nations economic fortunes. But in his opening remarks and answers to early questions, Obama refused to say the Republican wave that swept across the country was a fundamental rejection of the policies that his administration has pursued. There is no doubt that peoples number one concern is the economy, he said. What they were expressing great frustration about is that we havent made enough progress on the economy. The President repeatedly said he wants to work with the newly empowered Republicans in Washington. But he also said more than once that there are some principles that both parties are going to be unwilling to compromise on. While leaders of both parties are promising to cooperate, the prospects of bipartisanship are usually dicey - especially with the 2012 presidential election on the immediate horizon. Republicans are already strongly positioned to win control of the Senate in 2012, when Democrats will be forced to defend 23 seats compared to just 10 for Republican incumbents, potentially limiting the partys incentive to compromise. And the issues facing the nation in the months ahead are hugely divisive, including a debate over the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and efforts to address the long-term fiscal problems, possibly by making big changes to Social Security and Medicare. Receiving a congratulatory phone call from Obama after midnight, the likely House speaker, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, told the president that his top priority would be to create jobs and cut spending, aides said. At a news conference Wednesday morning at the Capitol, Boehner said Republicans would begin laying the groundwork for spending cuts and for repealing the health care law. The American people have concerns about government takeover of health care, Boehner said. I think its important for us to lay the groundwork before we begin to repeal this monstrosity. Overall, however, voters did not express any clear policy preferences that might help direct lawmakers, according to analysts. They indiscriminately ousted Democratic incumbents who loyally supported Obamas agenda, including the health care law, as well as lawmakers who carved their own path by voting against the president and the party leadership. In surveys outside polling places, 39 percent of votes said reducing the budget deficit should be the top priority for the next Congress, while nearly as many said the first order of business should be job creation. Just 19 percent said the top priority should be cutting taxes. For Obamas fellow Democrats, who won majorities in the House and Senate in 2006, the election results were a punishing defeat. Republicans picked up at least 60 seats, surpassing their gains in the so-called Republican Revolution of 1994, and making it the largest sweep of House races since 1948. In the Senate, Republicans nabbed at least six seats, a more modest gain. The Republican resurgence, propelled by deep economic worries and a forceful opposition to the Democratic agenda of health care and stimulus spending, delivered defeats to House Democrats from the Northeast to the South and across the Midwest. Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, narrowly prevailed and his party hung on to control by winning hard-fought contests in California, Connecticut, Delaware and West Virginia. Republicans picked up at least six Democratic seats, including the one formerly held by Obama, and the party will welcome Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky to their ranks, two candidates who were initially shunned by the establishment but beloved by the Tea Party movement, the conservative group. At this press conference Wednesday, President Obama faced questions about the fate of his policy agenda in the wake of significant losses after his first two years in office. He defended his agenda as an emergency response rather than a well-planned desire to expand government. But he conceded that people didnt see his response to those emergencies as temporary measures but rather as a new approach to government. Asked about Republican plans to try and repeal his health care legislation, Obama said he was willing to consider tweaks to the programme but does not intend to engage in a broad debate over its fate. Wed be misreading the election if we thought that the American people want to see us for the next two years re-litigate the arguments that we had for the last two years, Obama said.