WASHINGTON – President Obama hailed the growing strength in the economy at an end-of-the-year news conference Friday, but pledged to use 2014 to broaden the recovery to more of America’s citizens.
“We head into next year with an economy that is stronger than it was when we started the year,” Obama said before heading to Hawaii later in the day for a two-week vacation. “I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America.”
Obama said that despite problems with HealthCare.gov, more than 1 million people had signed up for new health care insurance in the last several months. And he said the economy grew last summer at the fastest pace in two years.
The president said he did not view 2013 as the worst year in his presidency and expressed optimism that more can be done, despite the failure of Congress to pass more of his agenda. He noted the recent budget deal as evidence that there can be more cooperation.
“It’s probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it’s also fair to say that we are not condemned to endless gridlock,” Obama said. “2014 needs to be a year of action.”
Obama seemed to offer a scaled-back sense of ambition for the remainder of his presidency, saying he wants to make sure he continues to make a difference, big and small, in people’s lives.
“At this point, my goal every single day,” he said, is to make sure that “we’re delivering something. Not everything, because this is a long haul.”
He said he would try in the years ahead to make sure that families feel greater opportunity, that the country’s finances continue to stabilize, that the housing market continues to improve, and that wages are “inching up” a bit. “If those things are happening, I’ll take it,” Obama said.
Before the news conference, Obama released a statement directing his military advisers to continue working to prevent sexual assault within the armed services, and to support victims and prosecute perpetrators – a subject of much recent Senate debate. He said the Pentagon should report to him in a year, by Dec. 1.
“If I do not see the kind of progress I expect,” he said, “then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks.”