WASHINGTON - With a second term ahead of him, President Barack Obama faces the urgent task of working with Congress to address an impending financial crisis that economists say could send the country back into recession.
Automatic tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts known as the "fiscal cliff" are set to take effect January 1, unless there's a budget deal to avoid it.
Voters gave Obama four more years in office, but also elected a divided Congress, with Democrats still in control of the Senate and Republicans in charge in the House.
While Obama told supporters in his election night acceptance speech, "You made your voice heard," House Speaker John Boehner says voters issued a dual mandate "for both parties to find common ground" and take steps to help the economy grow and create jobs.
But Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell is sounding less conciliatory. He says voters have not endorsed what he calls the "failures" and "excesses of the president's first term."
Newly elected Democrats are signaling they want to see a compromise. Sen.-elect Tim Kaine of Virginia says voters sent a message they want "cooperative government."
One prominent stumbling block: Obama campaigned on a pledge to raise taxes on the wealthy, specifically by repealing the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for Americans making more than $250,000 a year.
Republicans, meanwhile, said they will oppose any tax increases, arguing that will further slow an already struggling economy.
In his acceptance speech, Obama said he and political opponents "will disagree, sometimes fiercely." but he pledged to work with Republicans.
"By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won't end all the gridlock, or solve all our problems, or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus, and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward," Obama said. "But that common bond is where we must begin."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he hopes Obama proposes "solutions that actually have a chance of passing the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and a closely-divided Senate, step up to the plate on the challenges of the moment, and deliver in a way that he did not in his first four years in office."
Let the new old games begin.
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