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Official business behind him, Obama looks to 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - The last vestiges of 2013's political wrangling officially behind him, President Barack Obama is setting his sights on the coming year, when a number of unfinished tasks will increasingly compete for attention with the 2014 midterm elections.

Vacationing in Hawaii, Obama on Thursday signed into law a bipartisan budget deal softening the blow from scheduled spending cuts and a military bill cracking down on sexual assault. The two bills, passed by Congress with broad bipartisan support, constituted a modest step away from gridlock, and both parties cautiously hoped that spirit of cooperation might linger after New Year's Day.

"This law is proof that both parties can work together. We can put aside our differences and find common ground," House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who negotiated the budget deal for Republicans, said in a statement.

Easier said than done.

Already, familiar fault lines are emerging as Republicans and Democrats retrench for the next fiscal fight over raising the debt ceiling, which the Treasury says must be resolved by late February or early March. Despite the White House's insistence that Obama won't negotiate over that issue, Ryan has vowed the GOP will seek concessions before acquiescing.

Whether Obama and Republicans can resolve their differences without another default-threatening showdown may set the stage for other items on the agenda as Washington gears up for the midterm elections in November, when the entire House and one-third of the Senate will be on the ballot.

"There's a fresh year, but it's not as good as being re-elected. Obama is starting from a rough position, and the clock is already short," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian at Princeton University. "By June or July, most legislators are focused on getting re-elected, and it's very hard to get them to do anything at that point."

High on the agenda for the start of the year is a renewed push on immigration. Bipartisan consensus about the need for action on immigration in the wake of the 2012 presidential election gave way in 2013 to opposition from conservative House Republicans. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, has started offering subtle signs he'll put more weight behind the issue despite continued resistance from the tea party.

In late January, Obama will give his fifth State of the Union address, setting his agenda for the final stretch before the midterms. As the end of this year approached, he cast a renewed focus on economic plans aimed at closing the income gap between rich and poor. The White House is pushing Congress to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless that expire this month and to raise the minimum wage.

Obama may also be hoping that as health care coverage provided through government exchanges kicks in Jan. 1, Republicans will find it more difficult to argue that the entire law should be repealed. The calamitous roll-out of the law this year became a major distraction for the White House and has provided fodder to Republican candidates heading into the midterms.

In Obama's suitcase as he left Washington last week was a set of recommendations from an advisory panel he appointed to review the National Security Agency's intelligence collection programs. The White House said Obama would be studying the recommendations during his vacation in Hawaii, and he's expected to announce next month which steps he plans to implement.

On the foreign policy front, Obama is keeping an eye on violence cropping up in South Sudan, Ukraine and the Central African Republic. His administration continues its efforts to strike a long-term nuclear deal with Iran and to forge an elusive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.

And 2014 may provide a final chance for Obama to push to close the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, an effort that Congress has blocked through restrictions on transferring detainees. In a statement after he signed the defense bill Thursday, Obama praised Congress for removing some of those restrictions in the bill, but he called for further steps to lift constraints, including a ban on transferring detainees to the U.S. for imprisonment, trial or medical emergencies.

"I oppose these provisions, as I have in years past, and will continue to work with the Congress to remove these restrictions," Obama said, adding that some of the remaining restrictions, in some circumstances, "would violate constitutional separation of powers principles."

But as campaigning for House, Senate and governors' mansions kicks into high gear in 2014, Obama may find his efforts to focus attention on his priorities drowned out by the political posturing that reaches a fever pitch in Washington every other year.

"While the politics in Washington can be frustrating and change takes time, that's no excuse for inaction," Obama's senior adviser, Dan Pfeiffer, said in a note to the White House's email list. "There's a lot of unfinished business, but there are also things we can build on."

Regrouping with friends and family in Oahu, Obama has stayed largely out of the public eye since arriving on Air Force One last week. He attended a basketball tournament early in his stay and on Christmas visited with troops stationed in Hawaii, but residents here have otherwise had few opportunities to spot the visiting president.

One such opportunity came Thursday when Obama, shortly after signing the defense and budget bills in private, paid a surprise visit with his wife and daughters to a popular hiking trail in Oahu leading to a 150-foot waterfall. Caught off guard by the bomb-sniffing dogs that showed up at the usually serene locale, a few dozen hikers waited by the trail head, hoping to catch a glimpse of Obama's arrival.

The Obamas plan to remain in Hawaii through Jan. 5.

Join the discussion

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Karl Hammerle December 27 2013 at 2:12 PM

His first action should be his immediate resignation accompanied by that of Joseph Biden, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi. They shoud all apolgize to the American people for their attempts to impose a Marxist economic system on this country in direct violation of the Constitution.

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1 reply
elrod.porkmore Karl Hammerle December 27 2013 at 2:20 PM

they should do this from their prison cells

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Mr. Alan December 27 2013 at 11:26 AM

When your principal objective fails the obvious choice, of course, is to find something else that appeals to the huddled masses. Whatever initiative he launched is likely to fail just as badly as Obamacare if, for no other reason, than its principal advocate is (1) untrustworthy, and (2) stunningly incompetent.

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barbour503 December 27 2013 at 11:24 AM

Obama sets his sights on 2014?????
Lord help us all!

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tomkota December 27 2013 at 2:14 PM

oh boy 3 more years...... when hes gone it will look like 1929 bread and soup lines..
3 mores years of getting nothing done....and no 1 will have health care

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1 reply
elrod.porkmore tomkota December 27 2013 at 2:19 PM

it looks like that time period now

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English December 27 2013 at 11:23 AM

King Obama, said the his health care law could not be delayed because it was the Law of the Land. but now with out the consent of Congress he simply is making all kinds of delays, changes what ever the King thinks will help the mess he created. This goes far behond the government telling us we must buy a product, Obama is telling us what the product must have. This is like the Government telling us we must buy a certain car and it has to have the following accessories and by this color.I hope that Congress gets off it butt and starts protecting the country but challenging Obama actions. We have all seen King Obama is not capable of these large Social Changes and I hope Congress blocks all new issues he wants and waits for a far better President to fix things like immigration. Obama has lied to us from day one, not only about his health care law, but about the most transparent administration in history, he will not even allow the press to take photos, he only wants the White House to take them so he can contro what we see.

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aristars December 27 2013 at 11:23 AM

Just extend your vacation to three years and sure, things will stop getting worse!

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1 reply
barbour503 aristars December 27 2013 at 11:25 AM


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skosta December 27 2013 at 11:22 AM

Republicans are on firmer ground with the debt ceiling than they were with the budget.

Americans are becoming more wary of adding more debt.


That, and Obama's tanking approval rating because of the failing ACA will give republicans more leverage in Feb.

Look for Obama to fold.

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DARRYL December 27 2013 at 11:22 AM

Obama might do well to address and fix the disastrous unfinished train wrecks and scandals plaguing his administration, before he goes into other business. The capability of this administration will guarantee any new plans will probably just be another train wreck of the future.

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bankertl53 December 27 2013 at 11:22 AM

most of us are setting our sights on 2016 when this clown is out of the White House.

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2 replies
barbour503 bankertl53 December 27 2013 at 11:25 AM

so true so true

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Mickylitz bankertl53 December 27 2013 at 11:37 AM

Yes bankertl53 but we will have the same idiots voting for Hillary the shrew which will not help matters at all

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jwrainey99 December 27 2013 at 11:20 AM

Do us all a favor...stay in Hawaii and vacation all year. Will be much cheaper and better for the country.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
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