Back to business: Money matters in D.C.

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WASHINGTON — Taking little time to celebrate, President Barack Obama is setting out to leverage his re-election into legislative success in an upcoming showdown with congressional Republicans over taxes, deficits and the impending “fiscal cliff.” House Speaker John Boehner says Republicans are willing to consider some form of higher tax revenue as part of the solution — but only “under the right conditions.”

All sides are setting out opening arguments for the negotiations to come.

Even before returning to Washington from his hometown of Chicago, Obama was on the phone Wednesday with the four top leaders of the House and Senate, including Boehner, to talk about the lame-duck Congress that convenes a week after Election Day.

Without a budget deal to head off the fiscal showdown, the nation faces a combination of expiring Bush-era tax cuts and steep across-the-board spending cuts that could total $800 billion next year. Economists have warned that could tip the nation back into recession.

The White House held out this week’s election results as a mandate from voters for greater cooperation between the White House and Congress. At the same time, it reiterated Obama’s top priorities: cutting taxes for middle-class families and small businesses, creating jobs and cutting the deficit “in a balanced way” — through a combination of tax increases on wealthier Americans and spending cuts.

Boehner, for his part, said that for Obama to get support for new revenues “the president must be willing to reduce spending and shore up the entitlement programs that are the primary drivers of our debt.”

“We aren’t seeking to impose our will on the president. We’re asking him to make good on his ‘balanced’ approach,” the Ohio Republican said on Capitol Hill.

The reference to a balanced approach to deficit reduction reflected Obama’s campaign-long call for higher taxes on incomes above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples. That was something Boehner made plain he opposes.

The House speaker said conditions on higher taxes would include a revamped tax code to make it cleaner and fairer, fewer loopholes and lower rates for all, adding that “we’re closer than we think to the critical mass needed legislatively to get tax reform done.”

Boehner did not specify what loopholes House Republicans might consider trimming.

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