Obama notes 'season of progress' after arms treaty ratified today
President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan "season of progress" today at a year-end news conference marking an up-and-down second year in office that blended a thrashing at the polls, slow progress on the economy and late victories in Congress.
He forecast struggles over spending in 2011 with Republicans who take control the House, and vowed to try again and pass sweeping immigration legislation that was blocked by GOP critics. "If I believe in something strongly I stay on it," he said.
Obama opened the news conference with a reference to the nuclear arms control treaty with Russia that the Senate ratified earlier in the day on a bipartisan vote. In addition to cutting nuclear weapons and launchers, he said the pact will allow U.S. inspectors to "be back on the ground" in Russia.
"So we'll be able to trust but verify," he added, quoting the late President Ronald Reagan in another in a string of bipartisan gestures of recent weeks.
The president, who signed legislation earlier in the day permitting gay members of the armed forces to serve openly, said he does not currently favor legalizing gay marriage.
"I struggle with this. I have friends, people who work for me who are in powerful, long standing gay or lesbian unions," he said. "I have said that at this point my baseline is a strong civil union that provides them protection and legal rights."
The economy was not nearly as dominant a subject as it has been at other news conference in Obama's tenure. He said the nation is past the "crisis point," and he intends to focus in 2011 on reducing unemployment and making the country more competitive in the international marketplace. Unemployment was measured at 9.8 percent in November, down only slightly from its double-digit high in 2009. Economic growth has been stronger in recent months than earlier in his term, but not yet powerful enough to guarantee a quick recovery.
Obama said deficit reduction would be a major issue in 2011.