Now that the nation’s voters have returned President Barack Obama to office for another four years, the real challenge for the government lies ahead — how to end the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed Washington for too many years.
Tuesday’s election changed little. The president was re-elected, Democrats retained control of the Senate, and Republicans are still the majority in the House of Representatives. All of that is a recipe for more in-fighting.
But the gridlock is especially worrisome at this juncture. Tax cuts enacted under President George W. Bush expire on Dec. 31, meaning higher tax rates for all Americans. On Jan. 2, $109 billion in across-the-board spending cuts will take effect unless Congress acts. If the higher tax rates and spending cuts are put into place, economists believe a “fiscal cliff” would drain about $600 billion out of the U.S. economy in 2013.
For his part, Obama is talking up unity and cooperation. Part of the Democrat agenda is cutting budget deficits by asking wealthy Americans to pay higher taxes, while extending lower rates for the middle class.
Republicans will likely have none of that. House Speaker John Boehner said Tuesday: “For two years, our House majority has been the primary line of defense for the American people against a government that spends too much, taxes too much, certainly borrows too much, when it’s left unchecked. With this vote the American people have also made clear that there’s no mandate for raising tax rates.”
Poll after poll shows the American voter is fed up with partisan fighting and gridlock. It’s a lesson few in Washington have learned. Unfortunately, many of those slow-learners were returned to office on Tuesday.