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Obama Stresses Compromise on Fiscal Cliff Talks, Defends Susan Rice in First Press Conference Since Re-Election

President Barack Obama is calling on Congress to come to consensus this fall on legislation that would protect middle income earners from a tax increase next year, “so we can give folks some certainty before the holiday season.”

In his first press conference since re-election, Mr. Obama said he is committed to strengthening the economy, boosting job growth and reducing the nation’s $16 trillion debt, asserting that Americans approve of his balanced approach for reducing the deficit, which would include spending reductions, entitlement reform and tax increases on high-income earners.

“The American people understood what they were getting when they gave me an opportunity to serve a second term,” he said. “I’m open to compromise and I’m open to new ideas, and I’ve been encouraged over the past week to hear Republican after Republican agree on the need for more revenue from the wealthiest Americans as part of our arithmetic if we’re going to be serious about reducing the deficit.”

Mr. Obama also said the strong turnout among Hispanic voters demonstrates an increase in civic engagement among those in that community who have an interest in immigration reform. He wants Congress “to seize the moment” and begin, after Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, to discuss a policy that will allow law-abiding undocumented residents “the avenue whereby they can resolve their legal status here in this country.”

During the press conference, held in the East Room of the White House, Mr. Obama said he thinks his Republican challenger Mitt Romney did a terrific job running the Olympics and that before the end of the year, he hopes the two men can meet to discuss jobs and growth.

“He presented some ideas during the course of the campaign that I actually agree with,” the president said.

Mr. Obama addressed the scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, saying: “I have no evidence at this point from what I’ve seen that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have a negative impact on our national security.
The president also answered questions about the potential for legislation that would impose a tax on carbon emissions, as well as the continued unrest in Syria and the criticism against U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.

Rice is rumored to be on the short list to replace U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in President Obama’s second term, but has been subject to criticism from Sen. John McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham.

In her initial briefing on the Sept. 11 bombing of the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, Rice described the attack as a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Muslim film, rather than a planned event. But President Obama defended her.

“As I’ve said before, she made an appearance at the request of the White House in which she gave her best understanding of the intelligence that had been provided to her,” he said. “When they go after the U.N. ambassador, apparently because they think she’s an easy target, then they’ve got a problem with me….If I think that she would be the best person to serve America in the capacity at the State Department, then I will nominate her. That’s not a determination that I’ve made yet.”

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