10:31 AM PT: Today's press conference will be the president's first since the election—and his first full-blown press conference in eight months. It's scheduled to start at half past the hour and we'll be updating throughout.
10:33 AM PT: The media informs us that while the president hopes to address the fiscal
cliffartifice, he'll get peppered with questions about As the Petraeus Turns and Benghazi.
10:35 AM PT: The president has taken the podium. "I hear you have some questions for me." Titters of laughter. Hee hee. He starts with a statement: "Our top priority has to be economy and jobs." You can almost hear the collective gasp from the press: "NO, ROCK ME DAVE PETRAEUS! AND BENGHAZI! FASTLY AND FURIOUSLY!"
10:38 AM PT: "I'm open to compromise and I'm open to new ideas." Says he's encouraged by Boehner's statements that he's open to new revenue. Says there's two options: either Congress fails to act and everybody's taxes will go up at the end of the year—or pass a law extending all tax cuts on income below $250,000. Republicans, he says, "should not hold tax cuts for the middle class hostage while we debate tax cuts for the wealthy."
10:38 AM PT: So the president is pretty clear: the immediate question is whether or not to extend tax cuts on income below $250K. We'll debate issues like tax reform going forward, but not by the end of the year.
10:41 AM PT: First question from AP's Ben Feller is about Petraeus about whether national security has been breached. Blah blah. Obama says there's no evidence of that.
10:41 AM PT: The question also asked about whether Obama's team was fast enough to tell him about the Petraeus investigation. The president says there are processes in place to evaluate that question. Obama ends by focusing on what he calls the positive aspects of the general's "extraordinary career."
10:44 AM PT: Jessica Yellin: Why should Republicans and Americans believe you won't cave again on Bush tax cuts for wealthy?
10:45 AM PT: Obama's answer: The economy was weaker then. That was a one-time thing. And we can't afford to do it again. But we should extend middle-class tax cuts. Doing that would eliminate half of the fiscal
10:45 AM PT: Obama says he wants to do tax reform and to look at long-term entitlement spending after the tax cuts are extended. "What I'm not going to do is extend Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent that we can't afford."
10:47 AM PT: Obama says you can't generate enough revenue to pay for the Bush tax cuts on the wealthy simply by closing loopholes. And he plays the election card, saying this was an issue debated during the game. "We've got a clear majority of the American people," on taxes. "The only question now is are we going to hold the middle class hostage?"
10:48 AM PT: Obama has used the hostage language several times now. I don't think he used it much if at all during the 2010 battle over taxes. And I remember a bit of fauxtrage last time around about similar language. Doubt we'll hear it this time.
10:50 AM PT: Next question is on immigration reform: Citing his support from Latinos and the increasing number of Latinos voting, the president says "I'm very confident we can get immigration reform done." He says he believes Republicans will look at the election results and see that they need to act. And he says that immigration reform is historically a bipartisan issue.
10:52 AM PT: Obama says immigration reform should contain a continuation of his border security policies, should contain serious penalties for companies that higher undocumented workers and exploit them, and should contain a pathway to legal status for undocumented Americans, including things like learning English and potentially paying fines.
10:52 AM PT: Obama delivers a very strong defense of the DREAM Act.