WASHINGTON -- President Obama invited congressional leaders to the White House next week for talks on how to avoid a series of automatic tax hikes and budget cuts known as "the fiscal cliff."
"The American people voted for action, not politics as usual," Obama said during his first public statement since his re-election victory speech in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Obama said the nation should reduce the $16 trillion-plus federal debt in a "balanced and responsible way," including new revenues through higher taxes on the rich as well as less federal spending through budget cuts.
"I'm open to compromise," Obama said, but will not supported a plan that is not "balanced" with more revenues from the nation's wealthiest. "This was a central question during the election," said Obama, who defeated Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday. "It was debated over and over again."
The election showed that "a majority of Americans agree with my approach," Obama said.
The fiscal cliff is the combination of tax increases and automatic spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1 unless the White House and Congress strike a deal to reduce the debt.
The president spoke just a few hours after House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said he opposed higher taxes as a way to reduce the debt, calling instead for an overhaul of the tax code that would include lowering rates while eliminating loopholes.
"I'm proposing that we avert the fiscal cliff together in a manner that ensures that 2013 is finally the year that our government comes to grips with the major problems that are facing us," Boehner said. adding that potential cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps have to be on the table.
Back at the White House, Obama noted that Boehner did cite the possibility of "new revenues" as part of a debt reduction plan; the speaker cited revenues in terms of tax reform, not tax hikes on top of the existing system.
One key to the fiscal cliff is the set of George W. Bush tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of the year. Obama supports extending those cuts for the middle class, but not for those Americans making more than $250,000 a year; Republicans want all the Bush tax cuts extended.