Obama praises bipartisan 'season of progress' in Congress

WASHINGTON - (AP) - President Barack Obama celebrated a bipartisan"season of progress' on Wednesday at a year-end news conference afew hours after the Senate ratified an arms control treaty withRussia. In addition to cutting nuclear weapons and launchers, Obama saidthe pact will allow U.S. inspectors to "be back on the ground" inRussia. "So we'll be able to trust but verify, he said, quotingthe late President Ronald Reagan in another in a string ofbipartisan gestures of recent weeks. The president said that after elections on Nov. 2, many"predicted Washington would be headed for more partisanship andmore gridlock. Instead, this has been a season of progress for theAmerican people." He added that the accomplishments of a postelection session ofCongress demonstrate "we are not doomed to endless gridlock." Obama spoke at a news conference a few hours after the Senateratified the treaty he negotiated with Russian President DmitryMedvedev to reduce both nation's nuclear arsenals, the final majoraction of a productive postelection Congress. In the six weeks since the elections he bluntly called ashellacking for his party, Obama has signed bipartisan legislationto prevent a spike in income taxes, cut Social Security taxes forone year and extend long-term jobless benefits through the end of2011. Earlier in the day, he placed his signature on another bill thatwill allow gay members of the armed forces to serve openly, andwill soon sign a measure strengthening the safety of the nation'sfood supply. He also wrapped up a trade deal with South Korea. The Senate's ratification of the arms control treaty was Obama'stop foreign policy priority of the postelection session ofCongress, and a victory the administration ground out over the pastfew weeks by securing the votes of Republicans. The top two GOPsenators voted against the pact, although it was not clear how hardthey worked to prevent its ratification. Obama was flying to Hawaii later in the day, joining his wifeand the couple's two children for a year-end holiday. When he returns, it will be a few days before a new Congressconvenes, with a House controlled by Republicans and a Senate witha shrunken Democratic majority. Despite Obama's upbeat reviews, he conceded disappointment withCongress' failure to enact some of his other priorities. He mentioned a bill to give young illegal immigrants a chance atcitizenship if they go to college or serve in the military, whichwas blocked by Senate Republicans. He also said he was disappointed Congress wasn't able to approvea budget, saying he expects "robust debate" on federal spendingwhen Congress returns.

Watch President Obama's complete year-end news conference

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