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Obama calls bipartisan meeting on 'fiscal cliff,' digs in on tax hike

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In a press conference Friday before Obama’s remarks, Boehner proposed a temporary measure extending the Bush-era tax cuts into 2013, allowing the new Congress to work with the White House on a comprehensive package of tax reform, entitlement reform, and deficit reduction.

“I’m proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us,” Boehner said.

Since the election, the speaker has also called on Obama several times to step up his leadership. “This is an opportunity for the president to lead,” Boehner said Friday.

Boehner also revealed that he had had a “short conversation” with Obama earlier this week. The president has been criticized for not reaching out regularly to Republicans, especially as his reelection campaign kicked into gear last year.

In his remarks, Obama did not use the word “mandate,” but he nevertheless suggested he had one from the election results.

“On Tuesday night, we found out that the majority of Americans agree with my approach,” Obama said. “And that includes Democrats, independents, and a lot of Republicans across the country, as well as independent economists and budget experts. That's how you reduce the deficit, with a balanced approach.”

Boehner has maintained that his party, too, has a mandate, as Americans returned a Republican majority to the House. (In the Senate, however, the Democrats gained seats and are expected to have a 55-to-45 majority.)

Still, in the wake of a bruising election campaign, both men sounded conciliatory in the runup to the lame-duck session of Congress that will deal with the fiscal-cliff issues. Until the next Congress is seated in January, current members who are retiring or have been voted out will have their final moments in power. Typically, lame-duck sessions don’t accomplish much, though there have been exceptions. Two years ago, the lame-duck Congress voted to repeal the ban on open service by gays in the military.

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