TODAY   |  January 05, 2013

President, Congress headed toward more showdowns

From the debate over the debt ceiling to gun control, President Barack Obama and Congress are already gearing up for a number of battles as the new year begins. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> president obama is headed back to washington from his hawaiian vacation today. and given the fights he's about to face in washington, he may be wishing he could stay a little bit longer. our white house correspondent, kristin welker, is traveling with the president. she's in honolulu this morning. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning to you, erica. well, the president and congress may have resolved the fight over the fiscal cliff, but there are three more budget battles looming, and analysts say that could sideline part of president obama 's second term agenda which he will begin to map out soon after he leaves hawaii. president obama soaking up the final hours of vacation before he and congress engage in their next fiscal fight. at the top of the list, the debt ceiling which is like the nation's credit card , and it's about to max out. emboldened by his recent tax hike victory, president obama drew a hard line in his weekly address.

>> as i said earlier this week, one thing i will not compromise over is whether or not congress should pay the tab for a bill they've already racked up.

>> reporter: house speaker john boehner who won re-election to the speakership this week -- [ applause ]

>> reporter: told his conference he plans to use the debt limit as leverage to cut spending. in the republican address, representative dave camp echoed boehner.

>> our national debt is now over $16 trillion. we're crushing today's small businesses, and the next generation of americans under a mountain of dead.

>> reporter: if the fight sounds familiar, it is. during the summer of 2011 , the country had its credit downgraded after the president and lawmakers had a bruising fight over the debt limit. on friday, cnbc's jim cramer told andrea mitchell the upcoming partisan battle could have an impact.

>> look, first quarter could be difficult because of this. a lot of companies are going to report in theux next few weeks and say we are more cloudy because we don't know what cuts are coming.

>> reporter: there are two other budget deadlines looming in the coming months which could complicate the president's second-term agenda which includes immigration reform , pressing for stiffer gun-control laws, and new energy policies.

>> the state of the union will be critical here.

>> reporter: joe lockhart served as press secretary to former president bill clinton . lockhart says in order to achieve his other policy goals, president obama should focus on building public support, a tactic he more heavily employed toward the end of his first term.

>> the president has to lay out a program and a political game plan for how he's going to sell this and then hit the road and go city to city, talk to republicans, talk to democrats, create an environment where it's very, very difficult for republicans to oppose him.

>> reporter: now also on the horizon, according to multiple sources, president obama could announce his pick for secretary of defense as early as the beginning of next week. those who are close to the nominating process say former nebraska senator chuck hagel is the leading candidate. but white house officials stress the president has not yet made his final decision. lester?