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Inquirer Editorial: Now for the governing

President Obama still controls the bully pulpit in Washington.

That’s not a statement of defiance over Tuesday’s midterm election results, which showed a wave of voter anxiety nationwide. It’s simply the political reality confronting an emboldened GOP.

Heading into this election, the Republican Party was expected to pick up seats in the House and Senate and in statehouses across the nation. Although some races had yet to be decided Tuesday night, Republicans appeared to be headed to significant gains in all regions of the country, including an anticipated takeover of the House only four years after the GOP lost it.

Voters’ anti-incumbent mood was in large part a response to the weak economy and lack of jobs. With the unemployment rate holding steady for months around 9.6 percent, any party in power was bound to suffer big losses.

Both parties should return to Washington with the same objective: getting the economy back on track. To do that, Obama will need to adjust his agenda to the new political landscape, and Republican lawmakers must recognize that Obama still wields the veto pen.

One of the most pressing economic issues will need to be addressed even before Tuesday’s winners take office in January. The Bush-era tax cuts are set to expire at the end of this year, and Congress has been unable to agree on how to extend them.

Obama and most Democrats in Congress have advocated extending the tax cuts only for families earning less than $250,000. Republicans, and some Democrats, want to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest wage earners as well.

Inaction by the lame-duck Congress isn’t a good option; it would result in at least temporary tax increases for everyone, and prolong uncertainty during a slow economic recovery.

Obama’s proposal is preferable because it adds less to the debt over the next 10 years than the Republicans’ plan. But a shorter-term extension of tax relief for all might be the only option that’s achievable now.

Will Republican lawmakers be willing to work with Obama on other proposals to jump-start the economy? Not if their behavior before the election is any indication.

Republicans voted in lockstep against a worthwhile Democratic proposal that granted tax breaks and other incentives for small businesses to grow. GOP candidates instead campaigned on a pledge to repeal the new federal health-care law. That would amount to an unproductive exercise in political posturing over the next two years.

One of the most troubling aspects of this election was the dramatic increase in campaign spending. Candidates and a proliferation of outside groups spent about $4 billion in this two-year cycle, obliterating the $2.8 billion spent in 2006.

Lenient court decisions and loopholes in tax law have allowed this unacceptable arms race to spin wildly out of control. Responsible lawmakers must push for greater transparency and more enforceable limits on fund-raising in future elections.

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  • Reader Poll: Should President Joe Biden Step Aside?

    • Yes. He should step aside because of his age, declining ability to do the job. (45%)
    • No. He should not step aside. (39%)
    • Yes. He should step aside because he can't beat Donald Trump. (15%)

    Total Voters: 231

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