WASHINGTON — Closing out a tumultuous year, President Barack Obama laid the groundwork Friday for his last year in office, vowing not to fade into 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 — and we are only halfway through,” Obama said.
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.
Hours before his departure, Congress passed a major bipartisan budget package that staved off a potential government shutdown and extended tax cuts for both families and businesses. The White House has indicated Obama will sign it.
Crediting lawmakers with ending the year on a “high note,” Obama offered rare if muted praise for a Congress that more often than not has obstructed his legislative agenda. He said he’d called new House Speaker Paul Ryan to thank him for “orderly negotiations,” describing the Wisconsin Republican as professional and straightforward.
“Kudos to him,” Obama said.