WASHINGTON — President Obama basked in a series of legislative victories on Wednesday, saying the lame-duck session of Congress drawing to a close was "the most productive post-election period we've had in decades" and capped "the most productive two years that we've had in generations."
Hours after he signed into law a historic repeal of the U.S. military's ban on openly gay service, Obama also hinted that he may one day decide he can support gay marriages as well — but not just yet.
"If there's any lesson to draw from these past few weeks, it's that we are not doomed to endless gridlock," Obama said in the year-end news conference in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, his 11th news conference from the White House.
"We've shown in the wake of the November elections that we have the capacity not only to make progress, but to make progress together," he said.
Even as he took a little victory lap before flying off to Hawaii for a delayed family Christmas vacation, Obama expressed deep disappointment that he couldn't get enough congressional support for giving illegal immigrants' children a path to citizenship if they attend college or serve in the military.
He also acknowledged that Democrats and Republicans likely will lock horns in the next Congress over budget and spending issues.
Getting his agenda through may be much harder once Republicans take control of the House of Representatives and hold a stronger minority in the Senate.
Still, Obama insisted that voters expect the two parties "to find common ground on challenges facing our country. That's a message that I will take to heart in the New Year, and I hope my Democratic and Republican friends will do the same. "
"One thing I hope people have seen during this lame-duck, I am persistent," Obama said. "If I believe in something strongly, I stay on it."
Overall, Obama didn't engage in the chest-thumping that many congressional Republican critics predicted he would. Instead, he struck a bipartisan pose, repeating his line that he and Democrats suffered a "shellacking" in last month's elections.