“At $16 trillion and rising, our national debt is draining free enterprise and weakening the ship of state,” said the Ohio Republican, whose struggles to control his members persisted to the final weekend of the 112th Congress when “fiscal cliff” legislation finally cleared. “The American dream is in peril so long as its namesake is weighed down by this anchor of debt. Break its hold, and we will begin to set our economy free.”
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he, too, is ready for attempts to rein in federal spending, but laid down a few conditions. “Any future budget agreements must balance the need for thoughtful spending reductions with revenue from the wealthiest among us and closing wasteful tax loopholes,” he said.
That was in keeping with Obama’s remarks after Congress had agreed on fiscal cliff legislation to raise taxes for the wealthy while keeping them level for the middle class.
Boehner and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell have other ideas, both having said in recent days that the days of raising taxes are over.
“Now is the time to get serious about spending,” McConnell said. “And if the past few weeks have taught us anything, that means the president needs to show up early this time.” People won’t “tolerate the kind of last-minute crises that we’ve seen again and again over the past four years as a result of this president’s chronic inactivity and refusal to lead on the pressing issues of the day.”
While neither Boehner nor Reid mentioned immigration in their opening-day speeches, Obama is expected to highlight the issue in the first State of the Union address of his new term. Lawmakers are already working toward a compromise they hope can clear both houses.
Most Democrats have long favored legislation to give millions of illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship, and Republicans have stoutly resisted. Now, though, many within the GOP appear ready to reconsider, after watching with alarm as Obama ran up an estimated 71 percent of the Hispanic vote in winning re-election over Mitt Romney in November.