Tags: CNN | interview | Obama | Sochi | olympics

Obama: I Will 'Continue to Reach Out' to Congress

Friday, 31 Jan 2014 09:45 AM

By Wanda Carruthers

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President Barack Obama told CNN Friday he would not be doing everything through executive order, and would "continue to reach out" to Congress on his policy priorities.

"I think there are some issues where it's going to be tough for [Congress] to move forward, and I am going to continue to reach out to them and say, 'Here are my best ideas. I want to hear yours,'" Obama said in an extensive interview on CNN's "New Day."

However, the president reiterated the intent he made in Tuesday's State of the Union address to use executive action where he deemed necessary, because "the American people, more importantly, cannot wait."

Obama said he would not apologize for using his executive powers and was ensuring whatever actions he took were "within the authority that we have under the statute."

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"I am not going to make an apology for saying that, if I can help middle class families and folks who are working hard to try to get in the middle class do a little bit better, then I'm going to do it.

"It's a tough argument for the other side to make that, not only are they willing to not do anything, but they also want me not to do anything," he said.

Republican Rep. Tom Price of South Carolina introduced the STOP Act to curb the president's use of executive orders. Obama said he wasn't "particularly worried" about the proposed measure.

Obama expressed concern for the plight of the long-term unemployed, who may face bias because of the length of time they have been out of work.

In an effort to address the issue, the president said he gathered a group of representatives of leading companies to start the discussion of creating solutions, so that those job applicants aren't eliminated from consideration simply for the length of time they have been out of work.

"What we have done is to gather together 300 companies, just to start with, including some of the top 50 companies in the country — companies like Wal-Mart, and Apple, Ford, and others, to say, 'Let's establish best practices,'" he said.

The interview also covered topics from security at the Sochi Olympics, immigration reform, spying practices of the National Security Agency, Pope Francis, and marijuana use. Of the upcoming Winter Olympics beginning Feb. 7, the president indicated he would encourage people to attend, though he and his family would not be traveling to the games.

"We've looked at [Russia's] plans. I think we have a good sense of the security that they are putting in place to protect not only the athletes themselves, but also visitors there," he said.

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On immigration reform, Obama expressed confidence in finding common ground with Republicans. He said he thought there were lawmakers who wanted to "get a serious immigration reform bill done."

The president said he thought National Intelligence Director James Clapper should have been "more careful" in statements he made in a Senate hearing last year about the NSA's spying program.

In the hearing, Clapper said the government was not collecting information on Americans, which was later proven otherwise by revelations of ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The president said the people involved with NSA's efforts were "working hard doing a tough job."

The president said he was not sure if his daughters would accompany him to Rome for an upcoming trip to meet Pope Francis. He said he had been impressed the Pope had "communicated what, I think, is the essence of the Christian faith."

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As for marijuana use, the president said he stands by his "belief, based on the scientific evidence, that marijuana for casual users, individual users, is subject to abuse, just like alcohol is, and should be treated as a public health problem and challenge." He stressed his concern was the long-term criminal penalties associated with marijuana activity.

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