Obama wasn’t only re-elected, he became the first president in more than five decades to win at least 51 percent of the vote twice, which not even Ronald Reagan achieved in the 1980s. Democrats in November expanded their majority by two votes in the Senate and, while Republicans maintained a majority in the House, Democratic House candidates nationwide won 1 million more votes than Republican contenders.
The tax deal signed on Jan. 2 by Obama, which raised rates on annual income above $450,000 for couples, produced a split in the House Republican leadership. Boehner and Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin voted for the bill. Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Whip Kevin McCarthy of California, the party’s No. 2 and 3 leaders in the chamber, voted against it.
Lining up against the Republican leadership is an emboldened president, who appeared before the television cameras at the White House Jan. 1 to draw a line against accepting any conditions for an increase in the debt limit.
“I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” Obama said. “We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred.”
That sparked anger among some House Republicans.
“If the president thinks that he’s not going to negotiate, he’d better think again,” said Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, according to NBC News. “He’s president of the United States. He’s not emperor of the planet.”
Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Color., said he’s worried about the possibility of a debt default because of a standoff between congressional Republicans and the White House.
“We were downgraded because of concern of the political risk that the two parties couldn’t work together,” Bennet said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s Peter Cook for the program “Capitol Gains” airing Jan. 6. “There still isn’t evidence that we can do that.”