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Obama says he won’t fade away in final year

  • President Barack Obama spoke during a news conference in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington today. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

  • President Barack Obama spoke during a news conference in the White House Brady Press Briefing Room in Washington today. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON » President Barack Obama closed his next-to-last year in office with rare praise for congressional Republican leaders who helped orchestrate a bipartisan budget deal Friday, then vowed to work hard to beat the GOP and get a fellow Democrat elected to succeed him in the White House.

“I do want to thank Congress for ending the year on a high note,” Obama said in his annual year-end news conference. He singled out former House Speaker John Boehner for kick-starting the budget process shortly before leaving Congress and gave current Speaker Paul Ryan “kudos” for seeing the effort through.

The budget package, which staved off a government shutdown and extended tax cuts for families and businesses, was finalized shortly before Obama addressed reporters in the White House briefing room Friday afternoon. The president quickly signed the measure into law.

The fiscal agreement capped a year of milestones for the president — including a historic Iranian nuclear accord, a sweeping Asia-Pacific trade pact and a global climate agreement — that have been overshadowed in recent weeks by deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California, heightening Americans’ fears of terrorism.

Obama was stopping in San Bernardino late today to meet with families of the 14 victims on his way to Hawaii for his annual two-week Christmas vacation in his home state. The California attack by a married couple has raised concerns about the reach of the Islamic State and other terror groups.

Much of the president’s focus was on outlining plans for his final year in office. The race to succeed him is well underway and will consume even more of the public’s attention once primary voting begins in February.

While Obama was sidelined by his party in the 2014 midterm elections, he made clear he plans to play a robust role in the 2016 campaign. He said he expected Democrats to nominate a strong candidate, though he did not publicly side with front-runner Hillary Clinton or top challenger Bernie Sanders.

“I think I will have a Democratic successor,” Obama said. “And I will campaign very hard to make that happen.”

Bowing to the realities of an election year, the president outlined a limited legislative agenda for next year. He called on lawmakers to find areas of common ground on issues including criminal justice reform and final passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, both of which have some Republican support.

Still, Obama indicated he would continue to be aggressive in using executive authorities to act when stymied by Congress. He’s working on a package of gun control measures that could include an expansion of background checks, and he didn’t rule out the possibility of acting alone to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention center.

“In 2016, I’m going to leave it all out on the field,” he said. “Wherever there’s an opportunity, I’m going to take it.”

The president said he would make a determination on using executive action to shutter Guantanamo only after testing Congress’ willingness to act on a closure plan he will release early next year. The plan has been long-delayed, and there’s little expectation Republicans will drop their opposition to closing the prison.

Obama predicted the prison population would dwindle by early next year to less than 100, a threshold his administration has been pushing for to bolster its argument that keeping the facility open isn’t cost effective.

Much of the president’s final year in office is likely to focus on the campaign against the Islamic State group, which has destabilized Iraq and Syria while increasingly setting its sights on Western targets. Obama has faced withering criticism from Republicans, as well as some Democrats, for taking a cautious approach to fighting the extremists — an approach he defended again Friday.

“There’s only so much bombing you can do,” he said.

Obama also reiterated his belief that the anti-Islamic State campaign must be combined with diplomatic efforts to force Syrian President Bashar Assad from power. U.N. Security Council members on Friday unanimously approved a resolution endorsing a peace process for Syria, including a cease-fire and talks between the Damascus government and the opposition, though the agreement made no mention of Assad.

Obama called for Assad to leave power in 2011, but the Syrian leader has managed to hang on. The president defended his decision to call for regime change, saying he knew at the time that Syria would descend into chaos if Assad stayed in power.

“Five years later, I was right,” Obama said.

But when asked whether Assad’s presidency might outlast his own, the president demurred.

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    • Consider the dangerous and chaotic state of Congress, I really think our President did a decent job. He inherited a national economic disaster and to unnecessary failed wars and a Mideast aflame. I think history will treat him kindly. Is he one of the top presidents? No. But above average. Welcome home Mr. President!

      • Obama ignored Congress and acted on his own, although I personally believe many of his independent actions were unconstitutional. I hate to see what he taught his students about the U.S. Constitution.

        • No court has adjudged them to be unconstitutional. Obama did what he had to do to save the USA from the Bush nightmare.

        • Allie, I have heard that federal courts have ruled about 20 times that various Obama executive orders were unconstitutional violations of the separation of powers. I think two of those were related to the issue of whether “dreamers” should be deported along with their parents. The issue is what to do about adults who were merely babies or small kids when their parents entered America illegally bringing the baby along. Thus the baby is an illegal immigrant and can be deported. But that person grew up in America, probably speaks English pretty well, went to our schools, maybe has a good job, and seems to be an American except for illegal immigration.

          A bill was introduced in Congress to legalize the “dreamer”s but the Republicans defeated it. Obama issued an executive order to implement it anyway; and the courts ruled his executive order unconstitutional. I believe there have been about 20 cases like that, but on various topics.

        • KC, you are stating concocted and hardly truthful or insightful statements–I paraphrase, by way of example the claim that the Supreme Court’s “9-0 decision last week was the 13th time the Supreme Court has voted 9-0 that the president has exceeded his constitutional authority.” That’s a stretch, at best.
          The only decision among the 13 in which the High Court clearly found Obama “had exceeded his constitutional authority” was the case Goodlatte said occurred “last week.” The late June decision in NLRB v. Noel Canning found that Obama had overstepped his authority in making three appointments to the National Labor Relations Board without Senate approval.
          Richard Lempert, a nonresident senior fellow with the Brookings Institution and an emeritus law professor at the University of Michigan, reviewed Goodlatte’s list of cases for us and said that “only Noel Canning can be fairly cited to support this position.”
          When we contacted Goodlatte’s office, spokeswoman Jessica Collins told us the lawmaker’s figure referred to the court’s rejections of the “times the administration actually ACTED to exceed [executive] authority and times the administration’s stated position was that they COULD exceed their constitutional authority.” That’s different from what Goodlatte said. But many of the cases don’t actually involve executive authority. As Lempert told us in an email, many “do reflect an effort to broadly define powers of the federal government (which encompasses both Congress and the Executive.)”
          Adam Winkler, a professor of law at UCLA, told us that Goodlatte “overreaches a bit.” However, he says, “it’s clear the Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, has been aggressively expanding presidential authority. This a worrisome trend — sufficiently so that exaggeration and misrepresentation aren’t necessary.”
          Winkler mentions two cases among the list of 13 that are misrepresentations: McCullen v. Coakley, which “had nothing to do with presidential power” and instead was a challenge to a Massachusetts law requiring no-protest buffer zones around abortion clinics. The Obama administration wrote a brief supporting the law. Another, Arizona v. United States, “was widely viewed as a major victory for the administration in limiting Arizona’s anti-immigration law,” Winkler said in an email.
          In that ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the Obama administration in three of four issues, finding that federal immigration law preempted the state law. Says Lempert: “On the fourth and probably the least consequential section, the Court sided with Arizona. This case hardly represents a rebuke to the Obama administration, and Obama’s power as President was never in issue.”
          Our fact-checking colleagues at PolitiFact.com also consulted legal experts on Goodlatte’s claim and found it to be false. Tom Goldstein, publisher of SCOTUSblog.com, called Goodlatte’s figure “a concocted statistic.”
          According to the spokeswoman, Goodlatte is pointing to nine Supreme Court decisions described in a report by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, and another four unanimous decisions that have occurred since. Lempert told us Cruz’s characterization of the cases in his report “is for the most part dishonest.”
          Several of the cases began during the George W. Bush administration, and the Obama administration continued advocating the same position. Also, Lempert says, these cases weren’t about the extent of presidential power, but “rather they concerned technical and jurisdictional issues or the meaning of statutory language.”

        • Much of the blame for his ignoring Congress can be laid at the feet of spineless RINOs. In two off year elections, voters gave the GOP very solid majorities, expecting they would use the power of the purse to rein in the policy excesses and power usurpations authored by the current occupant of the White House.
          Instead the weenie GOP House majority quivered in their boots anytime the words “government shut down” were sounded and raised the white flag of surrender. Why Republicans are so eager to take the blame for a Democrat who shuts down the government by vetoing spending bills is a mystery. What is NOT a mystery is the fact of their cowardice.

          No wonder The Donald is on a roll.

      • Obama enjoyed the luxury of owning a democrat controlled congress for the first two years of his presidency. He squandered his efforts to pass the monumentally failed Obamacare. I say failed because it never lived up to ANYTHING he promised (cheaper, better, all access to any who applied). I do agree with you that history will indeed be very kind to him as leftists who control most of the media will happily embrace him personally and his policies as far more successful than they really were. That is the history they will record. It will be far from the truth.

    • He has NOT faded away, and has announced he will be very active and aggressive in his remaining year. That makes the coming year a very dangerous time for america. Obama will issue executive orders to do what Congress has refused to authorize. he will behave like a dictator, with no fear of impeachment because he has very little time left.

      Consider the situation of somebody who knows he is dying of a terminal disease, has maybe 6 months to live, but is not yet visibly sick or lacking in energy. He has, in effect, a license to kill. He can steal, rape, murder — whatever he wants, because he has no fear of punishment, since he’s gonna die pretty soon anyway. That’s Obama’s situation as President during his final year in office.

  • “He said he’d called new House Speaker Paul Ryan to thank him for “orderly negotiations,” …” Is THAT what that was? I thought someone told the repubs to play dead.

  • Please go away “Barry”. Our country cannot afford you being the commander in chief another year.
    Whomever is going to be the next President will have a terrible time trying to get our country back on track and they will unfortunately be tarred by
    your incompetence and misguided ideology.

  • He’s already faded away leaving us a problematic healthcare disaster with increasing premiums, failed foreign policies, not a diplomat when dealing with Russia & Israel and FAILED Immigration policy.

    I believe we’re ready for ‘change’ to another president.

  • I guess you folks who were hoping that he’d fade away to become an angry white man must be disappointed. What will you have to write about when the next president is another caucasian white male? (BTW I’m a caucasian who can’t stand racist crap. I don’t like the current President’s policies much but I can’t stand Repulicrats or Duhmicans and I do know that I hate racist screed.)

  • “Obama contended about Syria, ‘Five years later, I was right.'” Given the depth and breadth of the Obamster’s delusion, is it time to call for mandatory drug testing?

  • I saw his address before he was on his way out the door…aside from his mention a private viewing Star Wars and perhaps not watching enough cable vision (i.e. Fox News) to get the pulse of the people…the substance of his message was basically the same…blah, blah, blah.

  • “The president defended his decision to call for regime change, saying he knew at the time that Syria would descend into chaos if Assad stayed in power”.
    Like Iraq and Libya, Syria only descended into chaos when our government implemented their “regime change” action plan to support the overthrow of the current government. Time and again our government has pushed to replace middle east dictators, only to find out that the opposition is as bad or worse. Our presence in the middle east is the destabilizing factor, when will we learn to mind our business and not butt into the affairs of other countries. It’s a large part of why the people in other countries don’t like America. Many think we’re trying to control world and they’re not wrong.

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