A famous Latin phrase best captures Tuesday’s election results — vox populi, meaning the voice of the people.

The people spoke loud and clear Tuesday as Republicans gained an historic 60 seats and majority control of the House of Representatives. Republicans also gained six seats in the Senate, substantially narrowing the Democrats’ majority. 2010 proved to be a tidal wave election, sweeping away a number of veteran Democrats and abruptly ending one-party government after just two years.

In voting to change the congressional leadership the people unmistakably were saying that they want the President and the Congress to focus on jobs and the economy. Millions of Americans went to the polls believing that Washington, DC had not given enough attention to policies to get the country moving again and put people back to work. Read more.

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What might this week’s elections mean for HR policy?

Thu Nov 4, 2010

A famous Latin phrase best captures Tuesday’s election results — vox populi, meaning the voice of the people.

The people spoke loud and clear Tuesday as Republicans gained an historic 60 seats and majority control of the House of Representatives. Republicans also gained six seats in the Senate, substantially narrowing the Democrats’ majority. 2010 proved to be a tidal wave election, sweeping away a number of veteran Democrats and abruptly ending one-party government after just two years.

In voting to change the congressional leadership the people unmistakably were saying that they want the President and the Congress to focus on jobs and the economy. Millions of Americans went to the polls believing that Washington, DC had not given enough attention to policies to get the country moving again and put people back to work.

The big “day-after” question, of course, is whether Democrats and Republicans will be able to put aside their sharp philosophical differences and work together on policies to boost the economy and create jobs. The reality of Tuesday’s vote is that while the political gulf between the two parties is greater, neither side will be able to get anything done legislatively without the other. Republicans can block President Obama’s most cherished priorities; and President Obama and congressional Democrats can stop all Republican initiatives.

There are likely to be big political battles ahead over the federal budget deficit, taxes, government spending, energy policy and immigration reform, to name but a few. On these and every other important issue, including jobs policies, the election results create a stark choice: gridlock or compromise. Where Republicans and Democrats agree, legislation will win large majorities and be signed into law by the President. Where Republicans and Democrats disagree, nothing will happen.

I believe that on many issues, gridlock is the most likely outcome. But — not on all issues. Targeted policies to help create new jobs and strengthen the economy have the potential to win bipartisan support.

For example, Republicans and Democrats might find common ground on a temporary payroll tax holiday for workers. Earlier this year, Congress approved and President Obama signed into law the HIRE Act — an employer payroll tax holiday for hiring people who have been unemployed for sixty or more days. Republicans and Democrats might be able to agree on extending the HIRE Act for one year and complementing it with an employee payroll tax holiday. Together such policies could boost hiring and also increase take-home pay for millions of Americans. Immigration reform could be another area of common ground.

There are many unknowns after Tuesday’s stunning election results. We don’t know if Republicans and Democrats can work together — especially after the nasty personal attacks of the recent campaign. We don’t know if President Obama will tack closer to the political center in an effort to reach out to Republicans. And we don’t know if senators and representatives will work together to solve big problems like the gigantic federal budget deficit.

But we do know that the President and Congress, regardless of party, realize that voters will hold them accountable in 2012 for what they have done or failed to do. As the old saying goes, “the sight of the gallows focuses the mind.” I believe Republicans and Democrats have seen the gallows and understand that the people expect them to work together to get our economy growing again and create new jobs — as their first and most important priority.