Clock starts to tick for vital second term tasks
Analysis:Obama faces major challenges as the temporary goodwill of Republicans fades
As soon as the inaugural party draws to a close and the truce between the Democratic White House and Republican Congress called for the four-day event ends, the political wrangling and bitter partisanship will reignite.
The coming months will determine Barack Obama’s second-term capacity to drive through the ambitious legislative changes signposted in his 18-minute inaugural speech yesterday.
The acrimony between Obama and the Republican-led House of Representatives over a deal to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff” of spending cuts and tax increases, towards the end of last year, is likely to erupt again over a deal to raise the country’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit so the US can pay its upcoming bills.
Relations between the parties have been poor for two years now and the sides will not be drawn together by the cross-the-political-divide goodwill shown as Democrats and Republicans dined over a luncheon of steamed lobster, hickory grilled bison and apple pie in the Capitol yesterday.
The president acknowledged the battle ahead with Republican leaders over immediate challenges without referring to the next fiscal crisis facing his administration in February and March.
Time to act
“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate,” he said. “We must act, we must act knowing that our work will be imperfect. We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial.”
Republican leaders in the House reached out to Obama last Friday by proposing an extension to borrowing for three months but refused to back off from demands to cut spending.
The Republican House speaker John Boehner refused to accept any long-term increase in the debt ceiling until the Democratic-controlled Senate adopts a budget plan that includes cuts to government spending.
The GOP hopes it can extract spending cuts from Obama during looming budget battles when sequestration-related or automatic spending cuts are set to kick in on March 1st and the continuing resolution that funds government expires on March 27th.
The resolution of the fiscal cliff crisis last month in which Republicans reluctantly caved in to tax increases for those earning more than $450,000 a year has added to the hostility shown to the reinaugurated president by the Republicans.
The entrenched positions raise the prospect of a succession of cliffs, and not just of a fiscal nature, as Obama attempts to introduce legislation to reform immigration and control gun ownership after the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.