WASHINGTON – The day after a massive midterm defeat that gave the GOP control over both houses of Congress, President Obama struck a conciliatory tone, but the content of his news conference remarks was defiant as he promised to move ahead on his goals with, or without, the consent of Congress.
Obama repeatedly claimed a desire to work with Congress, but he also promised to take unilateral actions where he thought it important and to veto bills he did not like.
The president predicted, “Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign,” and that he and Republicans would continue to disagree on passionately held positions.
Obama never actually cited a policy on which he might be willing to compromise, while saying he would try to work with Republicans on funding measures to stop the spread of Ebola, hammering out a budget and getting new funding and congressional authorization for military forces to fight ISIS.
The president did not agree that the election served notice that he should change his policies and vowed to pursue his goals.
When asked if voters had repudiated his policies, which he had declared were on the ballot, Obama insisted he would not “try to read tea leaves” when it came to interpreting election results and would instead do what he thinks is best for the country.
He appeared to justify his intention to move forward with his agenda by noting, “I’m the guy who’s elected by everybody. They want me to push hard to close some of these divisions, break through the gridlock, and get stuff done. So the most important thing that I can do is just get stuff done.”
Obama seemed to claim voters merely had not understood his message, stating what he had said “didn’t penetrate,” and insisted, while he would see what he needs to do differently, the principles that guide him would not change.
A prime example was illustrated in his responses to reporters’ questions on immigration and potentially extending amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants, where he again vowed to act without Congress if he felt it necessary, proclaiming, “What I will not do is just wait.”
Obama said he preferred to have Congress pass a bill on so-called comprehensive immigration reform, including a process to let immigrants “become legal,” but if that did not happen, he “felt obliged,” to act with what he called lawful executive authority.
A reporter noted soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had just warned the president that implementing an executive order would poison the atmosphere and be akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull.
The president stood his ground, stating that he had heard that argument for years but had yet to see legislation he could act upon. He then doubled-down on his pledge, reiterating, “Before the end of the year, I will take whatever lawful actions I can take.”
The president was also asked if voters had not just told him not to do so, but he didn’t respond to that. He also did not respond to a question about whether such executive action would scuttle the chances of working with Congress on other matters.
Instead, he took aim at conservatives in Congress, particularly those in the House, indicating they were to blame for not passing an immigration reform bill.
The president stated that undoubtedly “some” in the GOP will be angered by an executive action he may take, but “those are folks who are also opposed to any form of immigration reform,” and are responsible for blocking what he called the bipartisan reform bill passed in the Senate.
Written by GARTH KANT
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