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Lawmakers offer helping of holiday thanks with side dish of debt worries

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After a heated campaign season, lawmakers expressed gratitude in their Thanksgiving remarks but not without the political undertones of an economy limping back to life and impending fiscal crisis.

In their weekly addresses, both sides first thanked members of the military serving abroad and those on the East Coast still suffering in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

"In the midst of so much tragedy, there are also glimmers of hope," said President Barack Obama. "We've seen hospital workers using their lunch breaks to distribute supplies; families offering up extra bedrooms; the fire department advertising free hot showers; buses full of volunteers coming from hundreds of miles away."

It is in that spirit of service and optimism that lawmakers should work together to find common ground on deficit negotiations, U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers said in the GOP weekly address.

"Republicans have reached out to President Obama in the hope of working together to help our economy grow and solve the debt that threatens our children's future," said the Washington state congresswoman, pointing to the "fiscal cliff," a series of potentially debilitating federal tax increases and spending cuts that would go into effect if Congress and the president fail to reach a deal to stabilize the nation's debt.

Turbulent deficit talks between the president and congressional leaders were largely put on the backburner in the weeks leading up to the election. After Obama's victory, however, lawmakers are feeling a sense of urgency to find common ground on taming the national debt as the year-end deadline looms and congressional approval ratings plummet. Republicans and Democrats have struck tones of bipartisanship, but it remains unclear if they can reach a compromise before the deadline.

Rodgers said that after the campaign season, "Far too many Americans remain out of work. Our national debt exceeds the size of the economy and threatens to derail our children's future."

"Republicans believe this is an opportunity to finally solve problems that Washington has ignored for too long," she continued.

Giving thanks, Obama said, is especially important this year, also striking a tone of bipartisanship.

"As a nation, we've just emerged from a campaign season that was passionate, noisy, and vital to our democracy," he continued. "But it also required us to make choices, and sometimes those choices led us to focus on what sets us apart instead of what ties us together; on what candidate we support instead of what country we belong to."

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