President Barack Obama has pledged to use his second term to push for reform of U.S. immigration laws, rebuild faltering infrastructure and find a balance between stepped-up energy production and environmental concerns. In an interview with the NBC program Meet the Press, recorded on Saturday and broadcast Sunday, he also said he would push for tougher gun control laws, despite opposition from the gun lobby, in the wake of the Connecticut school massacre earlier this month.
Here are highlights of his interview with David Gregory of NBC.
As a second term president now, about to begin your second term, your political capital, even having just won reelection, is limited. So what is your single priority of the second term? What is the equivalent to health care?
Well, there are a couple of things that we need to get done. I’ve said that fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority. I will introduce legislation in the first year to get that done. I think we have talked about it long enough. We know how we can fix it. We can do it in a comprehensive way that the American people support… The second thing that we’ve got to do is to stabilize the economy and make sure it’s growing. Part of that is deficit reduction. Part of it is also making sure that we’re investing, for example, in rebuilding our infrastructure, which is broken. And, you know, if we are putting people back to work rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools, in part paying for it by some of these broader long-term deficit reduction measures that need to take place that will grow the economy at the same time as we’re also setting our path for long-term fiscal stability.
Number three. You know, we’ve got a huge opportunity around energy. We are producing more energy and America can become an energy exporter. How do we do that in a way that also deals with some of the environmental challenges that we have at the same time? So that’s going to be a third thing.
But the most immediate thing I’ve got to do starting on January 1st, if Congress doesn’t act before the end of the year, is make sure that taxes are not going up on middle class families.
Those are four huge things and you didn’t mention after Newtown, although I know you’re thinking about it, new gun regulations … Do you have the stomach for the political fight for new gun control laws?
You know, David, I think anybody who was up in Newtown, who talked to the parents, who talked to the families, understands that … something fundamental in America has to change … And I’ve been very clear that, you know, an assault-rifle ban, you know, banning these high capacity clips, background checks, that there are a set of issues that I have historically supported and one will continue to support
The NRA says it’s just not going to work.
You know, my response is something has to work. And it is not enough for us to say, “This is too hard so we’re not going to try.” ...
And so this is not going to be simply a matter of me spending political capital. One of the things that you learn, having now been in this office for four years, is the old adage of Abraham Lincoln’s. That with public opinion there’s nothing you can’t do, and without public opinion there’s very little you can get done in this town. So I’m going to be putting forward a package and I’m going to be putting my full weight behind it.
Is this your Lincoln moment?
Well, no. Look, A, I never compare myself to Lincoln and, B, obviously the magnitude of the issues are quite different from the Civil War and slavery. The point, though is, is democracy’s always been messy. And, you know, we’re a big, diverse country that is constantly sort of arguing about all kinds of stuff but eventually we do the right thing.