's Washington bureau chief — one in a series of looks at the tasks the president faces in his second term.
One of the most important developments in the first part of President Obama's second term may come just two days after the inauguration, on Wednesday. That's when Republican officials have said the House will vote on a temporary increase in the nation's debt limit.
That vote marks a notable change in strategy for the Republicans who run half of Congress. Conservative Republicans remain intent on their goal of cutting government spending. But just a few days ago, they backed away from a previous plan to try to use the debt limit standoff — and a possible government default — to trigger a confrontation with the president over that spending.
A fight over spending still looms, of course. Indeed, with the nation's deficit and debt high, the struggle over spending cuts and tax increases is likely to be a constant theme of Obama's final four years in office.
Nevertheless, the Republican decision to not risk a government default over the issues marked an important change in their stance. It remains to be seen if the series of crises and confrontation that have marked the last two years between Congress and Obama will continue, or whether this move marks a move away from that cycle.
— By Sally Buzbee
Inauguration Watch follows the events of President Barack Obama's second inaugural. Look for short items and photos throughout the day.