Obama draws the line: Won't sign a repeal of Affordable Care Act

President Barack Obama said he is eager to work with the new Congress to make the next few years as productive as possible, but he said he expects them to disagree on some key issues.

In his first appearance since the Republican party reclaimed control of the Senate, Obama said that the U.S. government must focus on the American people and "get stuff done."

"Congress will pass bills that I cannot sign, and I'm pretty sure I will take some actions that Congress will not like," he said, adding that both parties should be able to find ways to work together on issues where there's broad agreement among the American public.

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Obama reaffirmed he will not sign a repeal of Affordable Care Act; it's working, he said, noting "You've got Republican governors that have concluded that it's a good deal for their state."

Despite some of the previous predictions, he said, "Health-care inflation has gone down every single year since the law passed." He did say that he would listen if Congress has ideas about how to improve the law.

"The individual mandate is a line I can't cross," he said. You can't ensure that people with pre-existing conditions will get health care if they're not required to sign up before they get sick, Obama said. It's an essential component of the law.

President Barack Obama speaking at the White House, November 5, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaking at the White House, November 5, 2014.

Obama said he wants Congress to act on immigration reform and believes there are concrete things that "we can do to make sure that wages and income do go up."

"Don't worry about the next election, don't worry about party associations," but worry about the concerns of the American citizens, he said, citing student loan debt, minimum wage and job growth as key concerns.

The GOP saw major gains in the midterm elections and took hold of seven Senate seats, more than the six it needed to reclaim majority control, with the final results from Alaska and Louisiana still in the wind.

Americans also moved on some of the president's key policies and issues surrounding abortion, the legalization of marijuana, gun rights and minimum wage hikes.

As a politician, there will be times when you're "disappointed with election results," Obama said. "[But] it doesn't make me mopey, it energizes me, because it means that democracy is working."

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The election results showed a direct rejection of the Obama administration, said Reince Priebus, chair of the Republican National Committee. Americans made it clear that they wanted nothing to do with his policies, he added.

Earlier, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, who is in line to be the next majority leader, said he looks forward to finding areas where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, pointing to tax reform and U.S. trade agreements as examples.

However, he added that it would be a "mistake" for the president to act on his own to address America's immigration issues.

Obama defended his administration, saying, "There are areas where we have made real progress," and noting that the country is better off economically on almost every measure since he first took office. However, he pointed to immigration reform as an area of concern and reaffirmed to use executive action to reduce deportations and improve border security before 2015.

Despite Republican warnings, Obama says he doesn't intend to wait on immigration, promising to "take whatever lawful actions we can take." He also said he would be sure to reach out to Republican leaders and "find out what their agenda is" as well as continue to look for ways to "do better."

Cantor's not-so-subtle warning to the tea party

Obama said it was still unclear whether the U.S. could come to an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program, but the outlook for a potential deal should become clear in the next three to four weeks.

The military's first goal is to isolate areas where ISIS can operate and avoid actions that could inadvertently help them, he said.

"What we don't want to do is lift sanctions and provide Iran legitimacy, but not have verifiable mechanism to make sure that they don't break out and produce a nuclear weapon," Obama said.