Washington, Dec 18: President Barack Obama sought to lay the groundwork today for his last year in office by vowing not to fade in the background but instead use his remaining months to push longstanding goals to fruition. "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." In his annual year-end news conference, Obama portrayed 2015 as one of significant progress for his agenda, pointing to diplomacy with Iran and Cuba and an Asia-Pacific trade agreement as big wins for his administration.
He also praised a Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage and a congressional rewrite of the No Child Left Behind law as further victories for causes he's made central to his presidency. Still, he said, he plans to do much more in 2016.
"I said at the beginning of this year that interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter â and we are only halfway through," Obama said. The end of 2015 marks a major transition point for the president, who has one year left to try to finish as many of his projects as possible.
He won't be rolling out sweeping new policy proposals that would be unlikely to get serious consideration amid the focus on electing his successor. The White House is promising Obama will deliver a "non-traditional" State of the Union address in January laying out an agenda that includes securing congressional approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, taking further steps on climate change and bolstering gun control measures.
Amid widespread fears about terrorism and extremist, Obama pushed back against critics questioning his strategy for defeating the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, arguing that "there's only so much bombing you can do." He also affirmed his longstanding position that Syrian President Bashar Assad must leave power for Syria to resolve its civil war, a stance that has been questioned in recent days amid comments from Secretary of State John Kerry and others.
"Five years later, I was right," Obama said about Syria. Calling attention to his signature legislative achievement, Obama announced that 6 million people had signed up for health care so far this year under the Affordable Care Act, a surge that officials say illustrates the program's durability.
After the news conference, Obama was to depart for San Bernardino, California, where he planned to meet with families of the 14 victims of the recent mass shooting. He then will fly to Hawaii where he'll spend two weeks on vacation with his wife and daughters in what has become a family Christmas tradition.