Obama praises Congress for passing budget deal

President Barack Obama on Friday lauded Congress for reaching a budget agreement and tried to assure U.S. citizens that the government has taken necessary steps to protect against terrorist attacks on American soil.

In a wide-ranging year-end address from the White House, Obama noted that he sees flaws in the funding package passed by lawmakers on Friday. But he stressed that the process proved much healthier than last-minute deals in the past and gave new House Speaker Paul Ryan credit for his role in the measure's passage.

"I'm not wild about everything in it, but it is a budget that, as I insisted, invests in our military and middle class without ideological divisions that would have weakened Wall Street reform or rules on big polluters," he said.

U.S. President Barack Obama holds his end of the year news conference at the White House in Washington
Carlo Barria | Reuters
U.S. President Barack Obama holds his end of the year news conference at the White House in Washington

Obama signed the year-end budget package into law shortly after his remarks ended Friday afternoon. It combines $1.14 trillion in new spending in 2016 and $680 billion in tax cuts over the coming decade, without striking down key Obama administration climate policies.

Aside from the budget bill, Obama highlighted events this year including the recent passage of an education bill, a global climate accord reached in Paris and a Supreme Court ruling that extended same-sex marriage to 50 states, among other initiatives he has backed.

"Since taking this office I've never been more optimistic about a year ahead than I am right now," he said.

Obama has faced criticism from numerous Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates over his strategy for fighting the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. He has also defended U.S. security policies in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris and California.

"Squeezing ISIL's heart, its core in Syria and Iraq, will make it harder for them to pump their terror and propaganda to the rest of the world," Obama said.

He called on Americans to remain vigilant about potential threats, and stressed that authorities are working to monitor warning signs without treading on privacy rights. Obama stressed that "no government" has the capacity to fully monitor private social media communications.

He also outlined priorities for the coming year, including finalizing a Pacific trade deal, passing criminal justice reform and reducing the number of prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay facility. Obama stressed that he would prefer to push Guantanamo changes — a longtime policy priority — through Congress, but would weigh executive options if that failed.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.