From Staff Reports
WASHINGTON — One day after his surprisingly comfortable re-election, a triumphant President Barack Obama headed back to the White House and divided government on Wednesday with little time left for a compromise with Republicans to avert spending cuts and tax increases that threaten a new recession.
The president also is looking ahead to top-level personnel changes in a second term, involving three powerful Cabinet portfolios at a minimum.
Republicans headed into a season of potentially painful reflection after retaining control of the House but losing the presidency and falling deeper into the Senate minority. One major topic: the changing face of America.
“We’ve got to deal with the issue of immigration through good policy. What is the right policy if we want economic growth in America as it relates to immigration?” said former Republican Party Chairman Haley Barbour. Obama drew support from about 70 percent of all Hispanics, far outpacing Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
There was little time to celebrate for the winners, with a postelection session of Congress scheduled to convene next Tuesday. By common agreement, the main order of business is the search for a compromise to keep the economy from falling off a so-called “fiscal cliff.”
The White House said Obama had made post-election phone calls to congressional leaders and reiterated a commitment to bipartisan steps to “reduce our deficit in a balanced way, cut taxes for middle class families and small businesses and create jobs.”
“The president said he believed that the American people sent a message in yesterday’s election that leaders in both parties need to put aside their partisan interests and work with common purpose to put the interests of the American people and the American economy first,” the statement said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters that any solution should include higher taxes on “the richest of the rich.” That was in keeping with Obama’s election platform, which calls for the expiration of tax cuts on income over $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.
Reid said he spoke with Republican House Speaker John Boehner as well as Obama Tuesday night as the election results became known, and he declared that “of course” a compromise was possible on the overall issue.
“I’m not going to draw a line in the sand. He’s not going to draw a line in the sand, I don’t believe,” Reid said of Boehner.
The speaker held a conference call with his Republican rank and file on Wednesday afternoon.
He said in pre-election interviews he would not agree to raise taxes on small business owners, a formulation Republicans often use in opposing the president’s position on the issue.
Barring legislation by year’s end, taxes are on course to rise by more than $500 billion in 2013, and spending is to be cut by an additional $130 billion or so, totals that would increase over a decade. The blend is designed to rein in the federal debt, but officials in both parties warn it poses a grave threat to an economic recovery that has been halting at best.