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Biden says it’s time for Republican ‘soul-searching’

By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau –

ABOARD AIR FORCE TWO — Vice President Joe Biden said he and President Barack Obama are “anxious to get moving” on urgent issues, such as the looming fiscal cliff, while suggesting that the likelihood of an accord on taxes and spending may depend on how Republicans respond to Tuesday’s election results.

“I hope there’s going to be some real soul-searching (by) the Republican Party about what they’re willing to cooperate on,” Biden said Wednesday.

Biden’s comments aboard Air Force Two came as he returned home to Delaware after spending election night in Chicago. He said that he understands that it’s “going to take some time” for Republicans to find their course in the fallout of the election, in which the president secured a second term and Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate, even as Republicans maintained control of the House.

He said there appeared to be a “clear sort of mandate” from voters about how to deal with tax policy, with the American people “coming much closer to our view.” But he said he and the president are open to compromise, and are eager to move quickly on a deal.

“We are prepared to work with Republican leadership to actually deal with the two overarching problems right now. One is the whole sequester piece, and the other is the tax piece,” he said. “There’s all kinds of potential to be able to reach a rational, principled compromise. But … I think the most interesting caucus is going to be the Republican caucus.”

By “sequester” Biden was referring to huge budget cuts scheduled to take effect in January unless lawmakers agree to other ways to trim federal spending.

Biden stood by the view he expressed before the election, one that the president also has shared, that if the Democrats won a second term the so-called “fever” that has led Republicans to block their agenda would break.

“Barack’s re-elected, so this sort of cause to keep a second term from happening’s done,” Biden said.

He indicated that, given Democrats added numbers in the Senate, there would be enough Republicans willing to cross the aisle to move legislation through.

“We’re going to have to compromise too. It’s not like we’re going to go in and say, ‘This is our deal, take it or leave it,’ ” he said.

Beyond fiscal issues, Biden listed immigration reform as an area he and the president are eager to move forward on. He said the election results should be a “wake-up call for a lot of my Republican colleagues,” given Obama’s strong performance among Latinos.

“I think it’s a different day. How it’s going to turn out, I don’t know, but the president and I are getting to work,” he said.

Biden returned to Delaware with members of his family Wednesday afternoon. He said he’d be back at the White House on Thursday to meet with the president.

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