President Barack Obama used the first weekly radio address of his second term Saturday to vow that he would stick to an election promise to raise tax contributions from the richest Americans to tackle the "fiscal cliff".
Obama's first order of business following Tuesday's victory at the polls is to tackle a series of tax hikes and spending cuts that will be triggered in the new year if there is no wide-ranging deal with Congress on a deficit-trimming budget.
If such a deal fails, many experts are predicting the US economy could fall back into recession. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has said it will not countenance any tax rises as part of the agreement.
In his new address, Obama said that was not acceptable: "I refuse to accept any approach that isn't balanced. I will not ask students or seniors or middle-class families to pay down the entire deficit while people making over $250,000 aren't asked to pay a dime more in taxes."
The president added that he believed this election victory over the Republican challenger Mitt Romney had given him a mandate to carry out his promise. "This was a central question in the election. And on Tuesday, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach," he said.
So far both sides – while sticking to their positions – have also tried to indicate that they are open to negotiations and compromise. Obama continued that line on Saturday by holding out the prospect of wide-ranging talks with his Republican opponents.
"We know there will be differences and disagreements in the months to come. That's part of what makes our political system work," he said. "Instead, you want cooperation. You want action. That's what I plan to deliver in my second term, and I expect to find leaders from both parties willing to join me."
Next week Obama will be meeting with top Republicans and Democratic leaders to begin the process of thrashing out a possible deal. He is also set to consult with business leaders and officials from organised labour.
Many business leaders have argued that the prospect of going over the fiscal cliff represents a nightmare scenario for America's economic prospects.
Some have called for tax hikes to be part of any settlement. Before the election, 80 American business leaders, including Microsoft's Steve Ballmer and JP Morgan's Jamie Dimon, signed a letter calling for a balanced approach to tackling the budget deficit, including tax hikes and spending cuts.
On Friday, United Continental airline boss Jeff Smisek told CNBC that the fiscal cliff could have a potentially more disastrous impact on his business than superstorm Sandy. "It makes it difficult for us to operate," Smisek said.
However, a political deal is far from guaranteed. The election left House Majority leader John Boehner firmly in control of the House of Representatives, along with its Tea Party-infused Republican caucus.
Many of those politicians are implacably opposed to any form of tax hike, and Boehner has also struck a strong tone, claiming that the election results that left his party in charge of the House also represent a mandate from the people.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © transplanted mountaineer