President Obama heads to the East Room of the White House for his first formal, solo news conference since March and former vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan provided some fodder for what could be one of the opening questions: Did voters give the president a mandate for his second term last Tuesday?
In an interview with ABC's Jonathan Karl yesterday -- his fist national televised sit-down since the Romney-Ryan ticket's loss on Nov. 6 -- the Wisconsin congressman said that Obama's sweeping electoral victory did not a mandate make.
"I don't think so, because they also reelected the House Republicans. So whether people intended or not, we've got divided government," Ryan, the chairman of the House budget committee, told Karl. "This is a very close election, and unfortunately divided government didn't work very well the last two years. We're going to have to make sure it works in the next two years."
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With the fiscal cliff looming, Ryan also noted his opposition to raising any tax rates -- another topic that is likely to be a centerpiece of today's news conference at the White House.
"Raising tax rates hurts economic growth and of all things we need right now, to prevent a fiscal cliff, prevent a recession, prevent a debt crisis, is we need people to go back to work," Ryan said.
But fiscal questions won't be the only ones on the agenda. The president will have a full plate at his White House grilling today with the scandal involving former CIA Director David Petraeus, and now the U.S.'s top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, dominating the airwaves, many unanswered questions about the Obama administration's handling of the violence in Benghazi, as well as the ongoing response to the areas of the East Coast affected by Hurricane Sandy -- to name just a few.
And as ABC's Mary Bruce notes, before the president takes any questions, he is expected to tackle the fiscal cliff in a brief opening statement detailing his efforts to reach a bipartisan agreement to reduce the deficit and prevent the spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect on Jan. 1 if nothing is done.