Hagel says Obama, Republican lawmakers in new political environment

Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) said President Obama and Republican legislators are now sitting in a political environment that's more conducive to dealmaking, compared to previous years.

"I think the environment and the climate is totally different today, going into next year, politically, than it was a year ago, two years ago, four years ago," Hagel, now the chairman of the Atlantic Council, said in an interview with the BBC. "I think the environment is going to dictate a lot of how much latitude both sides have in giving a little bit. First, you've got the American people fed up with Congress, fed up with politics and they want our leaders to bring some consensus to solving problems.

"I think also because Barack Obama will not stand for an election again —at least he says he won't— that takes the political tension out of this to some extent. There's always political tension and that's good, but that gives him more latitude, Republicans more latitude to finding a solution."

Hagel's comments come at the end of a week in which Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signaled an openness to swiftly compromising on a deficit-reduction plan. If legislators do not come to an agreement on a reduction plan before the end of the year, automatic spending cuts and tax rate increases take place at the beginning of 2013. 

Obama and Boehner have also said they hope to pass comprehensive immigration reform soon. 

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