Throughout the 2012 presidential campaign, President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies in Congress confidently predicted that the re-election of the president would break the partisan "fever" they claimed had enveloped Washington and the Republican Party.
But the weeks since the election have found Republicans as dogged as ever in their resistance to Obama, whose initiatives still face an uncertain path forward, particularly in an unruly House of Representatives still controlled by a Republican majority. Republicans are signaling a willingness to go to great lengths to bend coming battles in their favor, especially versus a White House whom they view as just as unflinching in its views, if not moreso.
"I believe if we're successful - when we're successful in this election - the fever may break. My hope and my expectation is that after the election, now that it turns out the goal of beating Obama doesn't make much sense because I'm not running again," Obama said at an event on June 1. "We can start getting some cooperation again, and we're not going to have people raising their hands and saying - or refusing to accept a deal where there's $10 of cuts for every dollar of tax increases, but that people will accept a balanced plan for deficit reduction."
That was an expectation the Obama administration carried all the way through the campaign; Vice President Joe Biden said on MSNBC just days before Election Day: "I think you're going to see the fever break."
But the just-finished fight over the fiscal cliff suggested that, if anything, Republicans are more entrenched than ever before. While Obama ultimately won the income tax rate increases on the wealthy, on which the president campaigned, it wasn't until Republicans had exhausted every feasible move that they relented to Obama's demand. And even then, it wasn't until the U.S. had gone over the fiscal cliff - if only for a matter of hours - that Congress agreed to act, passing the bill in the House with mostly Democratic votes.
But Obama might be mistaken to assume his toughest fights with congressional Republicans are behind him. While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's vow to make Obama a one-term president is now moot, Republicans appear as emboldened as ever to both battle with the administration and keep true to their the ideological conservatism that a large number in the party represent.
The temporary fiscal cliff deal sets up a series of potentially more contentious battles this spring over continuing government funding and authorizing more borrowing authority for the government. And top Republicans are now openly discussing options, like a government shutdown, that they had taken every pain to disavow in 2011.
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