Harry Reid Invites Republicans To 'Dance' On Fiscal Cliff

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. gestures as he discusses Tuesday's election results during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev. gestures as he discusses Tuesday's election results during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON -- Dance with me, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said to Republicans the day after his party humbled the GOP in Senate contests from Massachusetts to Hawaii on Election Day Tuesday.

With the elections over, and Democrats doing far better than Republicans expected, both sides have started turning to the looming "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and the steep budget reductions required in the so-called sequester.

Reid, praising his own Democratic party as the one representing diversity and listening to America, said in a Capitol Hill press conference Wednesday that the solution to congressional gridlock is for the GOP to stop making all legislation a fight.

"The election is over, and we have enormous challenges ahead of us," Reid told reporters, suggesting Congress should act on taxes and budget cuts in the lame-duck session that starts next week. "We have to sit down and go to work on them now, and not wait."

Reid twice noted that his counterpart Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) had declared that defeating President Barack Obama was the GOP's top goal, and he said Republicans should get over it.

"That's gone. He was reelected overwhelmingly," said Reid, who is a former boxer. His comments Wednesday were similar in sentiment to an offhand observation he made when he first became the majority leader.

"I said: 'I know how to fight. I know how to dance. I don't dance as well as I fight, but I'd much rather dance any time.' And I still feel that way," Reid said, extending an olive branch to McConnell. "It is better to dance than to fight. It is better to work together.

"Everything doesn't have to be a fight -- that's the way it's been the last couple of years," he added. "So everyone should comprehend, especially my Senate friends, that legislation is the art of compromise and consensus building."

But Reid also insisted Democrats would not be pushovers.

"Compromise is not a dirty word. I'm willing to negotiate any time on any issue," Reid said. "I'm going to do everything in my power to be conciliatory. I want to work together, but I want everyone to also understand, you cannot push us around."

Reid had the results from the election night to back up his stance.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has set his own news conference for later Wednesday afternoon to address the fiscal matters.

The key issue issue that Reid pointed to was the need to raise taxes on some of the wealthier people in America, in addition to cutting spending, and he cited exit polls that showed a majority of Americans agree with the "balanced approach."

Boehner has said he'd be willing to put revenues on the table, but has also adamantly refused to consider raising taxes. His approach -- and the one that former Republican nominee Mitt Romney and the rest of the Republican Party ran on -- involves tax reform. Such an approach would require lowering tax rates overall while closing loopholes to make up the difference. However, the models that Romney kept offering appeared mathematically impossible.

Jan. 1 marks the beginning of the fiscal cliff, when the Bush-era tax cuts expire. Democrats are arguing for keeping them for the bottom 98 percent of the income ladder. Republicans want to keep them all. The budget cuts called for under the deal cut last year to raise the nation's borrowing limit start phasing in on Jan. 2, and are supposed to amount to some $1 trillion over a decade. They include slowing defense spending by cutting more than $500 billion over 10 years from the growth of the military budget.

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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