Don’t spare us the change

They’re back. Who? President Obama, Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry ReidChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies Republicans are headed for a disappointing end to their year in power Obama's HHS secretary could testify in Menendez trial MORE (D-Nev.) — the winners of the 2012 elections.

Despite public angst about the economy and disapproval of Congress, voters returned the three leaders. They couldn’t agree on much during the last couple of years, but they were sent back to Washington to clear up some of the mess they left behind.

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Which brings them, and us, to the lame-duck session and 214th Congress.

By winning a second term, Obama has gained considerable leverage for negotiations about how the economy can avoid the spending cuts and tax hikes that together form the fiscal cliff. The president has proposed raising income taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year.

John BoehnerJohn Andrew Boehner‘Lone wolf’ characterization of mass murderers is the epitome of white privilege Pelosi urges Ryan to create select committee on gun violence Ex-congressman Michael Grimm formally announces bid for old seat MORE is strongly opposed to that idea, but, recognizing Obama’s election-bulked muscles, the Speaker on Wednesday gingerly offered to make a deal. In carefully prepared remarks delivered via teleprompter, Boehner said, “For purposes of forging a bipartisan agreement that begins to solve the problem, we’re willing to accept new revenue, under the right condition. What matters is where the increased revenue comes from, and what type of reform comes with it.”

He called for “a down payment” on deficit reduction during the lame-duck session of Congress.

Reid prefers that a major deal on taxes and spending be reached in 2012, saying he doesn’t want to “kick the can” into next year.

Yet Reid said after the election that he too wants to strike a deal with his political opponents. Like Boehner, Reid is a deal-maker, even though (for a variety of reasons) bipartisan agreements were difficult to achieve this year and last.

Obama, for his part, told supporters on Tuesday night, “You voted for action, not politics as usual.”

So, after this encouraging talk, let’s see if Obama, Reid and Boehner walk the walk.

The negotiations on the edge of the fiscal cliff are sure to be acrimonious. That’s how congressional negotiations go. But the protagonists need, more than have those in the past, to shake hands and reach a deal that is good for the country.

All three of them failed to reach a grand bargain in 2011. Instead, they pointed fingers.

The makeup of Congress next year will be similar to what it is now. But voters do not want the status quo. Continued gridlock could trigger another recession and another downgrade to the nation’s credit rating.

Wall Street is watching closely. It is worried, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average revealed on Wednesday when it dropped below 13,000 points for the first time since August.

Inaction is not an option, or at least not a good one in comparison to the alternative. Obama, Reid and Boehner should know that they need to change their ways and produce.