On Tuesday President Barack Obama secured re-election over Republican Mitt Romney, giving the president another four years to carry out his agenda. His party also kept their control of the Senate but Republicans maintained their majority in the House, indicating Obama may not have an easy path to everything he would like to accomplish in a second term.
In his acceptance speech, Obama stressed the need for bipartisanship between both parties to take on the many challenges he says still face the country. The fiscal cliff—the combination of tax cut expirations and automatic spending cuts mandated by Congress's failure to adequately solve the debt ceiling crisis in 2011—will need to be immediately addressed before the end of the year and theoretically before the end of Obama's current term. Yet depending upon the solutions found, action may be deferred into the president's second term and the new session of Congress next year.
"In the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit; reforming our tax code; fixing our immigration system; freeing ourselves from foreign oil," Obama said during his speech.
Speaker of the House John Boehner on Wednesday acknowledged the budget issues the country faces, including the occurrence of the fiscal cliff on January 1. He proposes lowering taxes, but said he is not altogether opposed to increasing government revenues:
For the purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we're willing to accept new revenue under the right conditions. What matters is where the increase revenue comes from and what type of reform comes with it. Does the increased revenue come from government taking a larger share of what the American people earn through higher taxe rates? Or does it come as a byproduct of growing our economy, energized by a simpler, cleaner, fairer tax code, with fewer loopholes and lower rates for all?
The two parties will have to come to some sort of agreement to solve the problem, as the Democratic Party will not have a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate with just 53 seats, and control of the House belongs to Republicans with a 235-200 majority likely, after all results are counted. Republicans say that Obama's re-election doesn't grant him a mandate to pursue his agenda with abandon, and he will need their support if he wishes to push through large policy initiatives like immigration reform.
Obama's first term included accomplishments like passage of the American Recovery and Investment Act and his landmark healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act, both of which faced fierce opposition from Republicans. The Recovery Act, also known as the stimulus bill, was vehemently opposed by Republicans in Congress who said the nearly $800 billion spending bill was not what a country crippled by economic crisis needed to regain its footing. Congressional Republicans made it their mission from the beginning to oppose Obama as much as possible, driving a hard bargain before the bill was eventually passed. The president's healthcare reform faced similar opposition from the Republican Party, but passed Congress and also withheld scrutiny from the Supreme Court.
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- Read David Shulman: The Outlines of a Post-Election Tax Deal
- Read the U.S. News Debate: Does Barack Obama Have a Mandate?
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