Obama Phones Boehner as Reid Urges Compromise on Capitol Hill

The president's first order of business is tacklling Washington gridlock.

ByJohn Parkinson and Stephanie Smith
November 07, 2012, 2:40 PM

Nov. 7, 2012 -- Fresh off his successful re-election bid, President Obama placed phone calls to congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, including House Speaker John Boehner, to discuss the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year.

"The president reiterated his commitment to finding bipartisan solutions to: reduce our deficit in a balanced way, cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses and create jobs," a White House read-out of the call reported. "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."

Obama made similar calls to Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Beaming after Democrats added two members to their majority in the upper chamber last night, Reid urged Republicans to work with Democrats towards finding common ground as Congress prepares to address the conundrum of economic tasks looming during the lame duck session of Congress.

"The election's over and we have enormous challenges ahead of us right here and we have to sit down and go to work on it now," Reid, D-Nev., told reporters in the Capitol at a news conference this afternoon. "We need Republicans to help us. Compromise is not a dirty word. I'm willing to negotiate anytime on any issue."

The fiscal cliff, which includes a bevy of items such as expiring tax cuts for the rich and middle class, $1 trillion in automatic cuts set to take effect next year, and a debt limit increase, remains the most daunting challenge for Congress during the lame duck session, which begins Nov. 13.

"We can achieve really big things when we work together. That's what the American people said last night in a big way," Reid said. "I'm going to do everything within my power to be as conciliatory as possible. I want to work together, but I want everyone to also understand you can't push us around."

Last night, after Republicans retained their House majority, Boehner said that raising taxes was a non-starter.

"With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates," Boehner said late Tuesday evening during an election night reception. "What Americans want are solutions that will ease the burden on small businesses, bring jobs home, and let our economy grow."

Reid said he spoke with Boehner earlier Wednesday morning and the two leaders had a "pleasant" conversation.

"I'm going to draw any lines in the sand," Reid pledged. "He's not going to draw any lines in the sand, I don't believe. I think we need to work together."

Reid also took issue with a reporter's question about whether voters preserving a divided Congress left Democrats with any leverage or momentum heading into negotiations.

"Your statement, things stayed the same, is about as far off-base as you could be," Reid said. "We had an overwhelming re-election of the president. We picked up seats in the Senate. We picked up seats in the House. That's not the status quo."

While Boehner has hinted he prefers a short-term solution during the lame duck session, Reid expressed his inclination for a long-term deal especially while $109 billion of sequester cuts, which are mandated by the Budget Control Act, are set to take effect Jan. 2.

"The Republicans have to make the choice. We're willing to work something out. We're willing to work it out sooner rather than later," Reid said. "I'm not for kicking the can down the road. I think we've done that far too much."

"Waiting for a month, six weeks, six months – that's not going to solve the problem," he continued. "We know what needs to be done and so I think that we should just roll up our sleeves and get it done."

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