President Barack Obama had barely finished his second-term acceptance speech Tuesday night before he was making calls to Republican leaders, well aware that he will need their help to keep the nation from falling over the "fiscal cliff."
GOP leaders greeted those gestures in mixed fashion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who once stated that his mission was to make Obama a "one-term president," made clear that his pattern of vindictiveness would continue. "The voters have not endorsed the failures or excesses of the president's first term, they have simply given him more time to finish the job they asked him to do," said McConnell, after offering half-hearted "congratulations" to the president.
Fortunately, House Speaker John Boehner appears to be more interested in bargaining to avoid the consequences of the Jan. 1 fiscal cliff, when billions of dollars of cuts and tax hikes would go into effect.
According to the New York Times, Boehner has signaled he is ready to accept a budget deal that raises federal revenue, but only if it is linked to an overhaul of entitlements and a reform of the tax code that closes loopholes, curtails or eliminates deductions and lowers income tax rates.
"Mr. President, this is your moment," Boehner told reporters.
For his part, Obama stated in his speech that he looks forward "to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together."
Of course, details matter. While Obama and Democrats must confront the rising costs of entitlements, the president has made clear he will not turn Medicare into a voucher program or accept some of the GOP's more extreme proposals. Another point of contention is tax rates for the richest Americans. Democrats say those rates must rise, but Boehner and other Republicans continue to insist on a lower tax rate for the highest earners.
A majority of voters on Tuesday left little doubt about where they stand. By re-electing Obama, they rejected the tax policies of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. That should stand for something. Boehner seems to get that. McConnell, grumpy he failed in his mission, seems stuck in the past.