President Barack Obama delivered his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning after winning re-election in a hard-fought campaign against Republican rival Mitt Romney as the U.S. faces the risk of another plunge into recession with the expiration of the current tax rates coupled with deep automatic spending cuts.
In his acceptance speech at McCormick Place in his native Chicago, Obama promised to work with both parties to solve the country’s lingering economic problems. “You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours,” he said. “And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together: reducing our deficit, reforming our Tax Code, fixing our immigration system, freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We’ve got more work to do.”
Obama indicated he might even call on Romney to help after the election.
“I just spoke with Governor Romney and I congratulated him and Paul Ryan on a hard-fought campaign,” said Obama. “We may have battled fiercely, but it’s only because we love this country deeply and we care so strongly about its future. From George to Lenore to their son Mitt, the Romney family has chosen to give back to America through public service and that is the legacy that we honor and applaud tonight. In the weeks ahead, I also look forward to sitting down with Governor Romney to talk about where we can work together to move this country forward.”
After winning his 2008 election by defeating Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama had also sought to involve his rival, consulting with McCain before the inauguration about potential nominees to national security jobs in his administration. But McCain remained a leading critic of Obama’s policies after the President took office.
Like Obama, Romney emphasized in his concession speech the need to put aside politics to solve the country’s problems. “The nation, as you know, is at a critical point,” Romney told a crowd of supporters in Boston. “At a time like this, we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing. Our leaders have to reach across the aisle to do the people’s work.”
Obama will need to work with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle during the lame-duck session of Congress, which starts next week. They hope to keep the economy from going off the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The combination of across-the-board automatic tax increases and deep cuts in defense spending and discretionary spending threatens to lead to another recession. Throughout his campaign, Obama has pledged to avert tax hikes for the middle class, but has called for raising taxes on incomes above $250,000, while Republicans in Congress have steadfastly resisted any tax increases.
The so-called Bush tax cuts are due to expire at the end of the year after Democrats and Republicans had extended them for two years at the end of 2010. In addition, the alternative minimum tax has not yet been patched, threatening to ensnare millions more taxpayers. The current tax rates for estate taxes and dividends are also slated to return to pre-Bush levels. The payroll tax cut on Social Security withholding taxes is due to expire at the end of the year, along with dozens of other tax breaks.
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, was also re-elected Tuesday night and will retain his leadership in a Republican-dominated House. He reiterated his opposition to tax increases after learning that Republicans would continue to control the House. “With this vote, the American people have also made clear that there is no mandate for raising tax rates,” he said.
Democrats, meanwhile, have retained their majority in the Senate. Leaders of both parties in Congress are expected to meet with the administration in the days ahead to try to avert some of the automatic tax hikes and spending cuts while trying to stay within the parameters of the deficit reduction deal they negotiated during their last battle over raising the debt ceiling, which is again approaching its limit around the end of the year. Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who chairs the House Budget Committee, is expected to play a role in those negotiations.