WASHINGTON, Jan. 21 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday kicked off his second term by laying out a liberal agenda for the next four years, signaling a continuation of bitter partisan rancor with a staunchly conservative GOP.
Speaking before an audience of several hundred thousand well-wishers braving the winter chill, Obama hit on familiar White House themes from universal health care to higher taxes for higher earners, underscoring the divide with Republicans who prefer low taxes and oppose the president's health care overhaul and many other Obama platforms.
"He drew lines in the sand and will dare Republicans to fight him," said Darrell M. West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution. "He thinks Democrats can win with the public if the GOP refuses to support him. As we move forward, there will be lots of contentiousness in American politics."
Indeed, the U.S. has seen a tougher and more determined - critics called him combative - Obama since his re-election. During a press briefing earlier this month that wrapped up his first term, the president warned Republicans not to insist on cuts to government spending in exchange for raising the debt limit, accusing them of threatening to "collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the economy."
For their part, Congressional Republicans are billed by critics as the most conservative and partisan group ever to sit in Washington, and experts said bipartisan cooperation next term could prove an uphill climb. The GOP says the same of the White House.
But while House Republicans stand between Obama and his liberal policies, there are limits on what they can do when Democrats control both the White House and the Senate. Moreover, the GOP has been in a state of disarray since Obama' s re-election, losing big with Hispanics and women. And experts say the party must reform or risk becoming irrelevant.
Obama's second term will likely see a brawl over gun control, as the GOP-aligned National Rifle Association sounds the alarm over what the group bills a government attempt to trample Americans' constitutional right to bear arms after Obama proposed a ban on assault rifles.
A fight over the debt ceiling is also looming, and immigration reform is sure to be a battle, experts said.
Widening the partisan gap was Obama's failure Monday to outline a plan to address the jobs crisis and reduce the massive U.S. debt, both of which are issues central to Republicans.
The president noted that an "economic recovery has begun," but fell short on details on how he would make the recovery more robust.
Still, the president called on lawmakers not to "treat name-calling as reasoned debate," and while intense battles may ensue over the deficit, immigration and guns, the two sides may reach some sort of compromise once the dust settles.
"On all three, both parties will have to come together and do what most Americans want - fix the big problems facing our country, not hold up progress just to fire up their base," said Lanae Erickson Hatalsky, director of social policy and politics at Third Way. ' Dan Mahaffee, an analyst with the Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress, said partisanship will continue, but House and Senate leadership will grasp the need for bipartisan action as challenges mount.
Recent moves, such as a House decision Monday to vote this week on a nearly four-month suspension on the debt ceiling signaled what might be the beginning of cooperation on the looming debt crisis.
Mahaffee added that presidents typically become less partisan during their second term. "In many ways, presidents have to be less partisan to ensure that their goals can be achieved and thus, their Presidential legacy," he said.