Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday that he and President Barack Obama are anxious to move forward on a bipartisan solution to the looming "fiscal cliff" that could force tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts next year.
The real question is what Republicans in Congress will do, Biden said. Democrats will keep control of the White House and the Senate, while Republicans will stay in charge of the House.
"What is the takeaway going to be on the part of our Republican colleagues? What judgment are they going to make?" Biden told reporters on Air Force Two, as he flew from Chicago, where he watched election returns Tuesday night, to his home in Delaware.
"I know it takes a little time to kind of digest what's going on. But I think people know we've got to get down to work and I think they're ready to move," Biden said.
Biden said he believes there are at least six Republican senators who are prepared to compromise on fiscal issues, adding that Democrats "are going to have to compromise too. It's not like we're going to go in and say: 'This is our deal. Take it or leave it.' "
Biden also said he is optimistic about a bipartisan deal on immigration reform. Obama won an overwhelming percentage of the Hispanic vote Tuesday, and many Republicans say the party must improve its standing with Latino voters to remain relevant as the Latino population continues to increase.
Latinos "played a major role" in Obama's victory, Biden said. "And that's got to be a wakeup call for a lot of my Republican colleagues."
Obama, who won a decisive victory Tuesday in the Electoral College, has said his failure to enact comprehensive immigration reform was one of the biggest regrets of his first term. But Biden said the president's re-election offers a new chance.
"I think it's a different day," Biden said. "How it's going to turn out, I don't know. But the president and I are getting to work."
On taxes and spending, Biden said the election offered "a clear sort of mandate," with voters "coming much closer to our view about how to deal with tax policy" than the Republican view. Obama has said he wants to retain Bush-era tax cuts for all but the wealthiest two percent of earners. Republicans have balked at the plan, insisting on across-the board cuts.
Biden's comments came as House Speaker John Boehner offered Wednesday to pursue a deal with Obama that would include increased revenues to help reduce the nation's staggering debt and put its finances in order. House Republicans want Obama to make good on a "balanced approach" that would including spending cuts and address government social benefit programs, Boehner said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also said he wants a quick solution to the so-called fiscal cliff, a one-two punch of expiring tax cuts and across-the-board spending cuts to the Pentagon and domestic programs that could total $800 billion next year.
With the election over, Biden said he is optimistic a deal can be reached. "I think we can do something on corporate taxes sooner than later. That would be positive, be a little confidence-building," he said.
While the president and Congress have been gridlocked for nearly two years, Biden said he thinks the election results mean that "the fever will break" in Washington. "And you know, Barack's re-elected, so this sort of (GOP) cause to keep a second term from happening" is over, Biden said. Obama "is there for four years."
Biden said he hopes the election prompts "some real soul-searching" within the Republican Party, with the result that they are more willing to cooperate with Democrats than during the past two years.
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