Obama claims victory, heads back to Hawaii

WASHINGTON -- Even as he claimed victory and praised leaders for walking back from the edge of economic danger, President Obama looked ahead to his next round of sparring with Republicans in Congress over deficits, taxes and government spending.

Speaking to reporters in the White House moments after the House passed a deal averting the so-called fiscal cliff, Obama declared his intention to keep chipping away at deficit reduction efforts.

“I think we all recognize that this law is just one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy and broaden opportunity for everybody,” Obama said late Tuesday night. “The fact is that the deficit is still too high, and we’re still investing too little in the things we need for the economy to grow as fast as it should.”

The House passed the tax deal, 257-167, winning more support from the chamber’s Democrats than the majority Republicans. The measure keeps income taxes from resetting to higher rates for 99% of American taxpayers, while allowing rates to climb for the wealthiest. It also delays automatic spending cuts that were scheduled Wednesday to start phasing in.

QUIZ: How much do you know about the fiscal cliff?


Immediately after his remarks, Obama boarded Marine One en route to Andrews Air Force Base, for an overnight flight to Hawaii to rejoin his family.

Obama had interrupted his holiday visit to his birth state after five days to return to Washington on Dec. 27. He’s expected to stay there through the weekend.

When he returns, he will greet a new Congress and a new set of fiscal crises. The deal passed Tuesday ensures that the next round of deficit brinkmanship will build to a new deadline, probably at the end of February, when Congress will be asked to increase the nation’s debt limit, pass legislation funding the government and address the automatic spending cuts.

Obama stressed that he would seek new tax revenue in any future deal, saying we can’t “simply cut our way to prosperity.” He also repeated his assertion that he would not negotiate with Republicans over whether Congress will vote to increase the debt limit, as he did in 2011. A failure to raise the limit prevents the Treasury from borrowing more to pay its bills and could result in a U.S. default.

Obama said that such a fight would be “catastrophic” for the global economy.

“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they’ve passed,” he said. “We can’t go down that path again.”

PHOTOS: Scenes from the fiscal cliff

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