Obama to Host Party Leaders in Bid for Deficit Deal

Flashing a spirit of bipartisanship in his first post-election public comments, President Obama said today that he plans to meet next week at the White House with the leaders of both parties to "start to build consensus" for a deal to avoid the catastrophic "fiscal cliff."

"Our job now is to get a majority in Congress to reflect the will of the American people," Obama said, giving nod to the election and what he described as a mandate for "action, not politics as usual."

Obama also suggested his re-election was an endorsement of tax hikes on wealthier Americans - in addition to spending cuts - as part of a "balanced" deficit reduction deal.

"I believe we can get that majority," Obama said in the East Room of the White House about securing support for his plan. "I was encouraged to hear [House] Speaker [John] Boehner agree that tax revenue has to be part of this equation. So I look forward to hearing his ideas when I see him next week."

Boehner on Thursday expressed openness to increased tax revenue, through eliminating loopholes and deductions and simplifying the tax code as possible components of a deal. He has rejected, however, the president's call for higher tax rates on upper-income Americans.

"I just want to point out, this was a central question during the election. It was debated over and over again. And on Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach," Obama said. "And that includes Democrats, independents and a lot of Republicans across the country, as well as independent economists and budget experts. That's how you reduce the deficit, with a balanced approach."

The administration has long called for an expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts for individuals earning more than $200,000 a year and families earning $250,000 or more. The top marginal income tax rates would essentially revert back to what they were during the Clinton administration, from 35 to 39 percent.

Laying out the stakes of the showdown, Obama said steep tax hikes and deep spending cuts - the package called the "fiscal cliff" - would adversely affect every American on Jan. 1, 2013, unless Congress reached a deal.

What's the "fiscal cliff" and how would it affect you? See the answer in our infographic HERE.

The president proposed as a first step that lawmakers pass into law what they already agree upon - extending current, lower rates for individuals who earn $200,000 or less or families who earn $250,000 or less.

"It would immediately take a huge chunk of the economic uncertainty off the table. And that will lead to new jobs and faster growth," Obama said.

The Senate has already passed a bill extending rates for only middle-income Americas. The Republican-led House has not acted on that measure, preferring instead to negotiate on a bill that would extend all rates.

"The increased tax rates that would be allowed under the Senate-passed bill are part of the fiscal cliff that economists are warning us to avoid," Boehner said in a statement. "Republicans are eager to get to work on an agreement that averts the entire fiscal cliff. The House has passed legislation to accomplish this vital goal. We look forward to joining the president next week and working to forge an agreement that will do the same."

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