President Obama and the Lame Duck Congress

President returns to U.S. vowing to work harder on bipartisanship.

November 13, 2010, 10:36 PM

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14, 2010— -- President Obama returned from his trip to Asia today, more reflective, admitting that his concentration on policy issues led to his "shellacking" in the midterms.

"In that obsessive focus on policy, I neglected some things that matter a lot to people and rightly so. Like, maintaining a bi-partisan tone in Washington," the president told reporters aboard Air Force One.

As the president looks forward, he will have to work with a lame duck Congress on a number of issues in the coming months, including the expiring Bush tax cuts.

Republicans voiced their resounding opposition this weekend to allowing the cuts to expire.

"We're talking about keeping current tax rates the same. And I don't think there's any room to negotiate on raising taxes, particularly on smaller businesses. I hope we can get a permanent extension," Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina said.

Texas Republican, Sen. John Cornyn reiterated DeMint's argument.

"We don't need to raise taxes on anyone during a fragile economic recovery, including the people who report their business income on small individual tax returns, small businesses," Cornyn said.

"In this serious recession, I cannot believe that raising taxes is a good thing on anybody," Sen. John McCain of Arizona said.

The president has long called for letting the tax cuts for the rich expire, which Senior White House Advisor David Axelrod reiterated Sunday morning.

"We can't afford to borrow another $700 billion to pay for tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires," Axelrod said.

However, there are signs from top Democrats in Congress that the White House may give in to Republican demands and agree to a temporary extension for the rich, or they may consider raising the tax cut ceiling.

"What if we moved it up to $1 million?" Sen. Charles Schumer of New York suggested. "Everyone below $1 million will get a tax cut but the millionaires and billionaires won't."

The president will also have to work with the lame duck Congress on the renewed cry to ban earmarks, lifting the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy for gay service members, and an upcoming vote on the strategic missile deal with Russia.

DeMint is calling on all members of Congress to support a ban on earmarks.

"Right now we've got over 500 congressmen and senators who are in Washington who think it's their job to bring home the bacon. And that takes your eye off the ball," DeMint said.

Like many lawmakers in Washington, DeMint once lobbied for multi-million dollar earmarks on behalf of his state. However, he claims that he has gone cold-turkey and no longer accepts them for South Carolina.

"I am a recovering earmarker. And thankfully, there are support groups now all over the country," he said. "We call them tea parties."

Before the president left Asia this weekend, he met with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, to discuss the START treaty, which is still before the Senate, and more specifically, cutting nuclear warheads by a quarter.

"I reiterated my commitment to get the START Treaty done during the lame duck session, and I've communicated to Congress that it is a top priority," the president said after his meeting with Medvedev.

GOP leaders will meet with Obama later this week to discuss how the two parties plan to move forward.

Though Republicans have said they intend to work with the Democrats, the president remains skeptical.

"Campaigning is different than governing. They are flush with victory after a campaign of just saying no, but I'm sure the American people did not vote for more gridlock," Obama said.

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