President Barack Obama said Friday he hopes to work with the new Republican Congress on tax changes, rebuilding roads and bridges and trade, but warned he's prepared to use his veto pen — something he hasn't done since 2010.
And after signing the "cromnibus" including the repeal of an anti-bailout provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street overhaul, Obama says he won't do that again — nor will he sign provisions that cost people health insurance.
"If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.
"If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place, in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no, and I'm confident that I'll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions," Obama said.
"But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done."
But approving the Keystone XL pipeline doesn't sound like it is high on his agenda. The president dissed the pipeline repeatedly as helping Canadian oil companies while providing few long-term jobs for Americans or impacting gas prices paid by Americans. He said the oil once it reached the Gulf would be sold on the world market.
He declined however to issue a veto threat on legislation Republicans plan to kick off the next Congress forcing him to approve the project.
Obama also dismissed the idea that his extremely active "pen and phone" agenda resulted in Congress getting less done.
"I've never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren't for the executive actions, they would have been more productive. There's no evidence of that," he said.
He noted that he gave Congress a year and a half to do immigration and the House failed to act.
Obama also weighed in on the Sony Pictures controversy, vowing to react to North Korean hacking and calling the move to pull the movie a mistake.
More broadly, Obama ended by admonishing the press corps and contending that things have gotten better for America this year.
"The economy has gotten better. Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better. We know more about how to educate our kids. We solve problems.
"Ebola is a real crisis. You get a mistake in the first case because it's not something that's been seen before. We fix it. You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border. And it may not get fixed in the timeframe of the news cycle, but it gets fixed.
"And, you know, part of what I hope, as we reflect on the new year, this should generate is some confidence. America knows how to solve problems. And when we work together, we can't be stopped."
The 114th: CQ Roll Call's Guide to the New Congress
Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.