Zelizer noted that after McConnell negotiated a deal with Vice President Joe Biden, Boehner allowed House Republicans to entertain an alternative that would have included more spending cuts, an alternative which never made it to a vote because fiscal conservatives couldn't muster a majority in the House GOP to support its passage.
Ultimately, Boehner kept his pledge to Democratic leaders in Congress to put the Senate's deal up for a House vote. By making the pledge before the terms of the Senate deal were even set, Zelizer said, Boehner sent a signal to House Republicans that they were going to lose the battle over the fiscal cliff even if they didn't like the Senate deal.
The maneuvers by McConnell and Boehner suggest a path forward if repeated, according to Zelizer, because if GOP leaders continue not to obstruct Democrats as they try to move forward with legislation, that could help bring around tea party Republicans in the House.
In order to improve their relationship with the White House, Navarette said Republicans "have to fix what's broken in their own party, they have to heal the divisions in their own party . . . and define what the GOP is about."
Calling it "a miracle" that Boehner was re-elected as speaker, Navarette said the GOP must also decide which role it wants to play in Obama's second term. Will they try to be accommodating and try to work with the president to find solutions to problems, including some problems Republican donors and the Republican establishment wants fixed? Or will they play the proverbial loyal opposition?
Both are "not terribly attractive options" for the GOP, Navarette said, especially up against a masterful political strategist like Obama.
And Navarrette suggests that the sports-loving and competitive Obama invite top Republicans over to the White House for his annual Super Bowl watching party in order to build personal relationships across the aisle in Congress.
For Obama, moderating his triumphal, defiant approach when it comes to Republicans and Congress is also important because, Navarette points out, gun control and immigration reform are both high on Obama's second term agenda. And there are strong feelings on the part of conservatives and Obama's liberal base on both issues.
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On the fiscal issues where Obama has repeatedly clashed with Capitol Hill Republicans in the past two years, Zelizer warns that recent events could repeat themselves.
"It's going to be rough, going to be tough, we're going to see this issue recur again and again over the years," the historian said.
Indeed, both Obama and McConnell, the GOP's new lead fiscal negotiator, already seem to be playing out a familiar script.
3 more fiscal cliffs loom
The last fiscal battle barely over, Obama wasted no time late Tuesday night staking out his position in the battles to come.
After saying "I am very open to compromise," the president went on to fire a shot over Congress' bow in the likely fight in February over raising the debt ceiling. "[W]hile 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 passed," Obama declared, "Let me repeat: We can't not pay bills that we've already incurred."
McConnell quickly fired back.
"The president may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it's the fight he is going to have, because it's a debate the country needs," McConnell wrote in a Yahoo op-ed published Wednesday night, adding that Obama "must show up" and deliver a serious plan for slashing federal spending.
"That's the debate the American people really want. It's a debate Republicans are ready to have. And it's the debate that starts today, whether the president wants it or not," McConnell wrote.
Although he has sworn off direct negotiations with Obama, Boehner echoed McConnell's remarks on Friday.
"With the cliff behind us, the focus turns to spending," Boehner told House Republicans.