In homestretch of his presidency, Obama seeks to cement gains

Obama will seek to put the finishing touches on legacy items like his plan to curb United States carbon emissions and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
Obama will seek to put the finishing touches on legacy items like his plan to curb United States carbon emissions and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - President Barack Obama, fighting the "lame duck" label for presidents whose clout wanes in their final months of office, will spend the last year of his presidency working to preserve gains and make a last push on a few key issues, senior White House officials said.

Obama will seek to put the finishing touches on legacy items like his plan to curb United States carbon emissions and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, while trying to made headway on criminal justice reforms, the officials told reporters on Thursday (Dec 17).

The White House will work to cement Obama's achievements by strengthening health care, expanding clean energy production, implementing the Iran nuclear deal and normalizing relations with Cuba.

"You don't start a new agenda on January 1. We intend to push a bunch of big pieces of business over the finish line next year," a senior official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Previewing Obama's final State of the Union address, slated for Jan 12, the officials said it will be a "non-traditional speech" to frame what Obama sees as major issues.

"I don't think you should expect a huge, long list from the president of legislative to-dos, but I think he's anxious to take kind of a big-picture approach to some of the challenges and opportunities that we face," an official said.

Obama is set to take questions from reporters on the year ahead at a news conference on Friday at 1.50pm before he leaves for Hawaii for a two-week vacation.

On the way to Hawaii, he will stop in San Bernardino, California, to meet with families of victims of a shooting earlier this month by a couple inspired by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The fight against the militant group in Syria and Iraq and preventing similar attacks at home will be at the top of his list for 2016, the officials said.

Obama wants to make progress on two issues on which he has been long thwarted by Congress: toughening up gun regulations and closing the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He will use the "bully pulpit" power of his office to drive the debate on issues like opioid addiction and cybersecurity, the officials said.

And he also will spend time on the presidential campaign trail stumping for the Democratic nominee. "There's no better way for this president to preserve the progress of the past seven years than to elect a Democrat to replace him," the official said.