Calling recent weeks “the most productive post-election period we’ve had in decades,” President Obama took a victory lap of sorts Wednesday afternoon in a White House news conference, but he noted some significant disappointments and outlined goals for the incoming Congress.
The president said that after midterm elections, many “predicted Washington would be headed for more partisanship and more gridlock. Instead, this has been a season of progress for the American people,” adding that the recent accomplishments in a surprisingly productive lame-duck session of Congress demonstrate “we are not doomed to endless gridlock.”
After Democrats’ “shellacking” in the midterm elections, the Obama administration is celebrating a series of accomplishments amid a more bipartisan tone in Washington:
A bipartisan bill to prevent a spike in income taxes, cut Social Security taxes for one year and extend long-term jobless benefits through the end of 2011
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal signed into law
Senate ratification of New START arms control treaty with Russia
9/11 first responders aid package bill cleared in the Senate
A food safety bill is slated to be signed by the president soon
- A trade deal with South Korea was wrapped up
Despite the recent accomplishments, the president said he was disappointed in Congress’ failure to:
Pass a long-term budget to fund the government.
- Pass the DREAM Act, which would give young illegal immigrants a path to legal standing if they go to college or serve in the military.
President Obama said the administration “is determined to get immigration reform done,” adding that at a minimum “we should be able to get the DREAM Act done.”
After signing a major piece of gay rights legislation in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, the president said he continues to grapple with the issue of gay marriage:
“I struggle with this. I have friends, people who work for me who are in powerful, long-standing gay or lesbian unions. I have said that at this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them protection and legal rights.”
Looking ahead to the next Congress, President Obama named a few top priorities:
Working with lawmakers to cut the deficit and debt, plus re-examine ways to help the economy recover and add jobs
- Continuing efforts to close Gitmo. The president said the detention facility has become a symbol and a recruiting tool for extremists.
The president was slated to leave later Wednesday to join his family for a vacation in Hawaii. When he returns, it will be just days before a new Congress convenes with a House controlled by Republicans and a Senate with a smaller Democratic majority.