Obama denies 2013 was his 'worst year'

President Obama says there have been "some frustrations" in 2013

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US President Barack Obama has brushed aside a suggestion that 2013 was the worst year of his presidency in a year-end press conference.

He voiced frustration with political gridlock on immigration and gun control, but was upbeat on the economy.

Asked to name his biggest mistake of the year, he spoke about his troubled healthcare law's rollout, conceding: "Since I'm in charge, we screwed up."

Mr Obama and his family depart later in the day for their holiday in Hawaii.

The Democratic president is ending his fifth year in office with the worst approval ratings of his tenure.

'Obviously frustrating'

Mr Obama's presidency in 2013 saw a government shutdown, the botched rollout of the healthcare website and embarrassing leaks about mass surveillance by the National Security Agency (NSA).

But he preferred to emphasise the positives during Friday's news conference from the White House briefing room lectern.

Start Quote

There may be another way of skinning the cat”

End Quote Barack Obama

"If I look at this past year, there are areas where there have obviously been some frustrations, where I wish Congress had moved more aggressively," Mr Obama said.

"Not passing background checks in the wake of Newtown [last December's school massacre], I continue to believe was a mistake."

He added: "A lot of our legislative initiatives in Congress have not moved forward as rapidly as I'd like. I completely understand that. Which means I'm going to keep at it."

On immigration, he said: "The fact that it didn't hit the timeline I'd prefer is obviously frustrating, but it's not something that I end up brooding a lot about."

He said there were indications that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives might consider immigration-reform legislation next year.

The US president also said he would make a "definitive statement" in January about recommendations by a White House panel to rein in the National Security Agency.

He said in "light of the disclosures that have taken place" and public concerns about the programmes "there may be another way of skinning the cat".

More details of UK and US surveillance targets have been revealed via documents leaked by Edward Snowden

Mr Obama said former NSA contractor-turned-leaker Edward Snowden had caused "unnecessary damage", but the president refused to say if the fugitive could be offered an amnesty deal.

No 'endless gridlock'

The US president argued healthcare.gov had largely recovered from its disastrous 1 October rollout, even as the medical insurance-selling website crashed for several hours on Friday.

"For all the challenges... these past couple of months, more than half a million Americans have enrolled through healthcare.gov in the first three weeks of December alone," Mr Obama said.

"In California, for example, a state operating its own marketplace, more than 15,000 Americans are enrolling every single day. And in the federal website, tens of thousands are enrolling every single day."

Obamacare setbacks

  • Nov 27: Year's delay in online insurance enrolment for small businesses
  • Nov 26: Spanish-language sign-up tool is postponed until December
  • Nov 22: Enrolment deadline for individuals is pushed back a week in December
  • Nov 14: Obama announces insurers can keep customers on existing plans for another year
  • Oct 23: Deadline for individuals to avoid penalties is pushed back six weeks to March 2014
  • July: Businesses with over 50 workers given until 2015 to provide insurance or pay a penalty

While reiterating that he would not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling, the federal government's borrowing cap, he praised Congress for a recent budget compromise that averted a fresh government shutdown.

"It's probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship," Mr Obama said. "But it's also fair to say we're not condemned to endless gridlock."

The US president highlighted improving economic data, saying 2014 would be a "breakthrough year" for the nation's economy.

But he also argued Congress should extend unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work for extended period of time.

The current long-term unemployment scheme is due to end days after Christmas.

"We head into next year with an economy that's stronger than it was when we started the year [and] more Americans are finding work and experiencing the pride of a paycheck," he said.

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