A day after a poll drubbing, US President Barack Obama struck a defiant tone saying he is ready to work with Republicans but could bypass Congress on issues like immigration reforms that would allow 11 million illegal immigrants, including 2.4 lakh Indians, to stay in the country.
Exuding full confidence in the future of America, Obama in his 90-minute speech said, “We have all the best cards relative to every other country on Earth.”
“I am really optimistic about America. I know that runs counter to the current mood, but when you look at the facts, our economy is stronger than just about anybody’s,” he said.
“The United States continues to be a magnet for the best and brightest from all around the world. My job over the next couple of years is to do some practical, concrete things – as much as possible with Congress; where it’s not possible with Congress, on my own — to show people why we should be confident, and to give people a sense of progress and a sense of hope,” Obama said.
The US leader stopped short of accepting direct responsibility for his Democratic party’s defeat at the hands of Republicans who snatched control of the Senate, tightened its grip on the House of Representatives and won key Democrat governorships.
Obama said the US has made real progress since he took over.
“The fact is more Americans are working; unemployment has come down. More Americans have health insurance. Manufacturing has grown. Our deficits have shrunk. Our dependence on foreign oil is down, as are gas prices,” he said.
Obama said he is ready to work with the Republican Party, which now controls the Congress, to advance the national agenda.
“I’m eager to work with the new Congress to make the next two years as productive as possible. I’m committed to making sure that I measure ideas not by whether they are from Democrats or Republicans, but whether they work for the American people,” he said.
“Congress will pass some bills I cannot sign. I’m pretty sure I’ll take some actions that some in Congress will not like,” he said.
But, in the absence of a strong legislative base for the remaining two years of his presidency, Obama said he would press ahead with plans on immigration reform.
He said he would take executive action this year, without waiting to see whether the new Congress makes progress toward a comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform bill.
“So before the end of the year, we’re going to take whatever lawful actions that I can take that I believe will improve the functioning of our immigration system that will allow us to surge additional resources to the border, where I think the vast majority of Americans have the deepest concern,” Obama said.
According to estimates, there are 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, including over 240,000 Indians.
A comprehensive immigration reform, he said, “would give an opportunity for folks who’ve lived here, in many cases, for a very long time, may have kids who are US citizens, but aren’t properly documented — give them a chance to pay their
back taxes, get in the back of the line, but get through a process that allows them to get legal”.
Obama said he would be reaching out to both Mitch McConnell, the incoming Senate Majority Leader and John Boehner, Speaker of the US House of Representative and other Republican as well as Democratic leaders to find out how it is that they want to proceed.
He acknowledged that the Republicans won Tuesday’s elections, but framed the results as a mandate for Republicans to work with him, instead of the other way around.