With the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign now history, newly re-elected President Barack Obama is turning his attention to negotiations with congressional leaders on a deal to tackle the nation’s massive debt.
The White House says Obama phoned Republican House Speaker John Boehner Wednesday, the day after his election victory, to begin discussions on a deal to avoid a package of automatic budget reductions and tax increases set to take effect at the end of the year. Economists warn the package, dubbed the “fiscal cliff,” could push the U.S. economy back into recession.
The president is seeking new revenue by requiring wealthier Americans making over $250,000 to pay more in income taxes, something adamantly opposed by Boehner and his fellow Republicans. But the House speaker told reporters Wednesday he is not opposed to some form of new government revenues, as long as they include changes to programs such as Social Security and Medicare.
“Now, the President has signaled a willingness to do tax reform to lower rates” Boehner said. “Republicans have signaled a willingness to accept new revenue if it comes from growth and reform. So, let’s start the discussion there.”
But Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid told reporters that no one will be “messing with Social Security” as part of any compromise deal.
Talks between the president and Boehner on a so-called “grand bargain” over a long-term budget deal in 2011 collapsed.
Obama and his family returned to Washington Wednesday night from their home in Chicago after spending the day celebrating his election to a second term.
The latest projected results from Tuesday’s election have Obama, a Democrat, beating his Republican rival, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, by a margin of 303 electoral votes to 206. As of Thursday, the final vote tally for the southeastern state of Florida, which holds 29 electoral votes, had not been announced. A candidate needs 270 electoral votes to win the White House.
Americans also elected all 435 members of the House of Representatives, and 33 of the 100 members of the Senate. Republicans retained control of the House of Representatives, while Democrats will stay in charge of the Senate.
During his remarks Wednesday, Boehner made a conciliatory gesture towards the president, saying “we want you to lead, not as a liberal or conservative, but as president of the United States.”