FAIRFAX, Virginia President Barack Obama said on Monday Washington faces tough decisions on containing its spiraling debt and he hopes Democrats and Republicans will declare a post-election ceasefire to work together on it.
U.S. debt and an annual budget deficit over $1 trillion account for two of the biggest problems facing lawmakers. Democrats and Republicans are far apart on how to address it.
"Let's see if Republicans and Democrats can come together and make some tough decisions -- and they are going to be tough decisions," Obama said.
The two parties are locked in combat over whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of this year -- Republicans want all of them extended and Democrats seek to limit them to families making less than $250,000 a year.
Obama this year appointed a bipartisan deficit commission to recommend ways to reduce U.S. debt. Its members are looking at the possibility of cutbacks in popular government programs such as Medicare and Social Security and tax increases.
The commission is to issue its recommendations after the November 2 congressional elections, meaning the group's work will not affect the upcoming vote but could well be a factor in the 2012 elections when Obama is expected to seek a second term.
Obama, speaking at a family's home in the Washington suburb of Fairfax, Virginia, said he recognized that Americans are concerned about rising debt, particularly after a weekend rally in Washington by "tea party" conservatives.
"I do understand people's legitimate fears about, 'Are we hawking our future because we are borrowing so much to finance debt and deficits,'" Obama said.
He said the challenge is "how can we get ourselves on a trajectory where mid-term and long-term we are starting to bring our debt and deficits slowly under control."
Obama has frequently crossed swords with his Republican opponents in the U.S. Congress and has been on the receiving end of their criticism while dishing out his own.
But he said once the election is over, he hopes there will be the possibility of a better working relationship. Many political analysts believe Republicans could oust Democrats from control of the House of Representatives on November 2 and possibly even the Senate.
This would likely force Obama to take a more centrist approach to a domestic agenda that is relatively stalled on such issues as overhauling the U.S. immigration system and climate legislation.
"My hope is what can Republicans and Democrats do together after this election -- Stop spending so much time attacking the other side and spend a little more time focusing on what is good and what is right about America," he said.
(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)