Contentious Questions Dominate President Obama's Year-Ending News Conference

Reporters press U.S. president on issues ranging from 'Obamacare' to Iran's nuclear program.
3:00 | 12/20/13

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Transcript for Contentious Questions Dominate President Obama's Year-Ending News Conference
This is an ABC news. A presidential news conference. Now reported George -- its. Hello everyone were coming in here right now for president Obama's final press conference of the year it has become an annual tradition. President takes questions -- heading off to Hawaii for Christmas vacation with his family and this year. He's pretty safe to say that he needs a good break it has been a tough one. The top items on the president's legislative agenda like immigration reform and gun control block in congress the NSA surveillance program revealed by -- -- being challenged in the courts. And even though the health care website is -- a bit better after that disastrous launch it is still unpopular and under fire. In C senior White House correspondent Jonathan Karl's in the White House briefing room and John all these setbacks have really taken a -- on the present standing with the public. -- there's no question about that Georgia in poll after poll we have seen the president's approval rating hit the lowest level of his presidency. And even more concerning to the White House is the fact that those very same polls show that a majority of Americans for the first time. Think the president is not honest or trustworthy don't think he has a strong leader. But there have been some improvements at the white the web site that health -- web -- as it up and running for the most part. Others glimmers of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill -- budget passed this week. So they are certainly hoping the 2014. We'll be better but make no mistake about it this last press conference of the year is coming after by far the toughest year. Of the president of the Barack Obama president. No question about that one of the questions the president is gonna face as well is whether he's -- -- accept. Some of these recommendations. For reform of the NSA surveillance program just received report from a panel he appointed yesterday. And whether or not this bipartisan budget deal we saw at the end of the -- is a sign of things to come more progress. In 2014. Or if it's a one off and already some signs in congress that there could be another big confrontation over the debt limit. When that is hit again. In March as -- said the president will be heading to Hawaii just a little bit from now right after the press conference set to fly out early this evening. With his family last year's vacation was in erupted there was -- confrontation with the congress over tax cuts right after the presence election in November. 2012. They had the president cut short his vacation had to come back -- New Year's Eve. To find that law into effect right at the beginning of this year perhaps that was a sign of how difficult a year he would be. Four the president of course the year also saw a sixteen day government shut down during that confrontation. With the congress the president's approval ratings rose to those of the congress -- has also been a tough here. For the congress the least productive congress since nineteen. 47 -- right after the government reopened all those problems of the obamacare website revealed. And it's taken the -- -- the better part of the last two months to get that up and running -- up to speed even though I should say that earlier today there was a bit of -- hiccup. The health care web site was down again. For some time and it's back up right now important that it's up. Now because. The deadline for -- to -- for the into the air hits on Monday he is the president now. Good afternoon everybody. I know you were all eager to skip town and spend some time with the families. Not surprisingly I am -- But you know what they say it's. The most wonderful press conference -- the I am eager to take your questions -- first I just want to -- a few words about our economy. In point thirteen. Our businesses created another two million jobs. Adding up to more than eight million. And just over the past 45 months. This morning we learned that over the summer our economy grew at its strongest pace in nearly two years. The unemployment rate has steadily fallen. To its lowest point in five years. Our tax code is fair and our fiscal situation is former. -- deficits that are now less than half of what they world when I took office. For the first time in nearly two decades we now produce more oil here at home where -- -- from the rest of the world. And our all of the above strategy for new American energy means lower energy costs. The Affordable Care Act has helped keep health care cost growing at their slowest rate in fifteen years. Combine that means bigger paychecks for middle class families and bigger savings for businesses. Looking to invest and -- here in America. And for all the challenges we've had. And all the challenges that we've been working on diligently in dealing with. Both BA CA and the web site these past couple months. More than half -- Americans have been rolled through Elster dot gov in the first three weeks of December alone. In California for example state operated its own marketplace. More than 151000 Americans are rolling every single day. And in the federal web site tens of thousands or enrolling every single day. Since October 1 more than one million Americans. Have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces. So all told millions of Americans. Despite the problems with the web site. Are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance -- New Year's Day. Now there's always season there are mothers not fathers and -- through the doors and workers. Who have something new to Salt -- The security of knowing that when the unexpected or misfortune strikes -- should no longer pastor and to add that all up. And what it means -- we had in the next year with an economy that's stronger. That it was when we start of the year. More Americans are finding work and experience in the private picture. Our businesses are positioned for new growth in new jobs and I. Firmly believe -- -- two point fourteen. Can be a breakthrough year for America. But. As I outlined in detail earlier this month. We all know there's a lot more -- we're gonna have to do to restore opportunity. And broad based growth for every American and that's gonna require some action. It's a good start bit earlier this week for the first time in years both parties in both houses of congress came together to pass a budget. That unwinds some of the damage and sequester cuts that created headwinds for our economy. It clears the path for businesses and for investments that we need to strengthen our middle class like education and scientific research. And a means of the American people won't be exposed to the threat of another reckless shut down every few months so that's a good thanks. It's probably too early to declare. An outbreak. Bipartisanship. But it's also fair to say that we're not them to endless gridlock. There are areas where we can work together. I believe -- -- should begin with something the Republicans in congress should have done before. Leaving town this week and that's restoring the temporary insurance that helps. Folks make ends meet when they are looking for a job. Because congress didn't act more than one million of their constituents will lose -- vital economic lifeline. The Christmas time leaving a lot of job seekers without any source of income at all. I think we're -- better country that. We don't abandon each other when times are tough. Keep in -- unemployment insurance only goes to folks -- were actively looking for work. A mom who needs help beating her kids when she -- resonates or. Dad who meets opera in the rent while working part time still learning the skills she needs for that new job. So. When congress comes back to work their first order of business should be making this right. I don't know bipartisan group is working on a three month extension of this insurance. They should pass. Sign it right away. -- repeat I think 2014 needs to be -- of action. We've got work to do to create more good jobs to help more Americans earn the skills and education they need to do those jobs. And make sure that those jobs -- for the wages and benefits that let families -- ruled that a financial security. We still have the task. Finishing. The fix our broken immigration system. We've got to build on the progress we've painstakingly made over these last five years we're respectful our economy and offer. The middle class and all those were looking to join the middle class. A better opportunity. And that's going to be see where -- focus all my efforts. In the your head. And let me conclude by saying. Just as we're strengthening our position here at home. Were also standing up for interests around the world. This year we've demonstrated that with clear -- principled diplomacy we can pursue new paths to a world that's more secure. A future where Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. Future -- serious chemical weapons stockpiles -- the sport. By the end of next year the war in Afghanistan will be over just as we've ended -- war in Iraq and will continue to bring our troops home and has always. We will remain vigilant to protect our homeland and our personal overseas terrorist attacks. -- -- a lot of our men and women in uniform are still overseas and a lot of them are still spending their Christmas. Far away from the family and their friends in some cases still harm's way. So -- closed by saying to them. And their families back home we want to thank. Your country stands united. Supported you. And being grateful for your services your sacrifice. We will keep you and our thoughts and in our prayers during this season of hope. So before our wish America Christmas all it's always good night we'll take. Some questions. Jay prepared a list of who's naughty and nice so we'll see here. We'll see who made it. Julie must be nice. Jewish -- All of that you like that you cited in your opening statement when you look back this year. Very little of the domestic agenda that you outlined here on -- address your -- Carol are obviously had -- problems and public art -- -- stores. There -- -- -- your presence. I I gotta tell usually that's not how I think about it I now been in office. Five years close to five years. Was running for president for two years before that and for those of you -- -- during that time we have had ups and we have -- had -- I think this room was probably recorded at least -- near death experiences. And what I've been focused on each and every day is are we moving the ball in helping the American people. Families. Have more opportunity to have little more security. To feel as if if they work hard they can get it and if it -- look at this past year. There are areas where there obviously been some frustrations -- -- wish congress would move more aggressively. They'll not passing background checks in the wake of -- is something that. I continue to believe was a mistake. But then I also looked at because of the debate that occurred. All the work that's been done at state levels to increase. Gun safety and to make sure that we don't see tragedies like that happen again. There's a lot of focus on legislative. Activity. The congressional level but even when congress. Move on fixation on their whole bunch of things that we're still don't so. Would always get attention for about. The connect -- program that we announced where were going to be. Initiating -- wireless. Capacity in every classroom in America. Will make a huge difference for kids all across this country and for teachers. Manufacturing. That we set up. In Youngstown something that I talked about during the state of the union is going to create innovation. And connect universities manufacturer's. Job training to help create a Renaissance killed on the Renaissance that we're seeing manufacturing. When it comes to energy this year is going to be. The first year in a very long time we're -- we're producing more. -- And natural gas. Here in this country. There were important that's a big deal so so. I understand the -- -- -- getting -- which is that. A lot of or legislative initiatives in congress. Have not moved forward as rapidly as I'd like. I completely understand that. Which means that a -- -- And if you look at for example immigration reform probably the biggest. Thing that I. Wanted to get done this year. We saw progress. That passed the senate were -- strong bipartisan vote. There are indications in the house or even though it did not get completed this year that. There is. -- commitment on the -- the speaker to try to move forward. Legislation early next year and the fact that it didn't hit. The timeline but I prefer. Is obviously. Frustrating but it's not something that I -- debris -- about. And they seem to have lost confidence in. -- future credibility has the get a hit off the hook here -- the big part of that few understand that it. It's changed the -- have you. Julie I guess what I'm saying is if you're measuring this -- -- My polls have gone up and -- -- -- Through the course of my career. I mean if I was Anderson in polling I would run for president I was born at 7% -- when -- -- in the US senate. I took this job to deliver for the American people and I knew. And will continue to know that there -- going to be ups and downs. You're right that health cure. Web site problems. Were. A source of great frustration I think -- last press conference. Adequately. Discuss my frustrations on those on the other hand since that time I now have. Couple million people maybe more. We're gonna have health care on January 1. And. That is a big deal. That's why -- ran for this office. And as long as I've got an opportunity every single day to make sure that. In ways large and small. Creating greater opportunity for people more kids are able to go to school get education they need. More families are able to stabilize their finances. You know the housing market is continuing to improve. People feel like -- wages maybe hear her -- up a little bit. If those things are happening. I'll take it. And you know I've said before -- -- my last political races. So at this point -- Goal every single day is just to make sure that. Cycle Americans very. We're deliberate something not everything goes. This is a long haul. -- -- -- -- -- -- What are the most significant events yeah relief. -- surveillance. As you review how -- -- in the National Security Agency. A federal judge says that for example. The government failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the in this case both competitive. Are you able to identify specific examples when -- did so. Are you convinced that the collection that it is useful financial security continue that is. -- limits are more broadly and I don't talk specifically about over who -- As you know. The independent panel that I put together came back we a series of recommendations 46 and total. I had an extensive meeting with them down in the situation room. To review all the recommendations that they've made I want to thank them publicly. Because I think they did an excellent job and took my -- very seriously which is I told them. I want -- Look from top to bottom at what we're doing. And evaluate. Whether or not. The current structures that we have in the current -- -- we have. Are. Properly. Addressing both our continual need to keep ourselves security to prevent terrorist attacks. Or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -- or other. Threats to the homeland. And are we also making sure that were taken seriously it. Rule of law and our concerns about privacy. And civil liberties so what we're doing now is evaluating. All the recommendations that have been made. Over the next several weeks. I'm gonna assess. Based on conversations not just live. The intelligence community but others in government and outside of government how we might. Apply and incorporate. Their recommendations. And -- America pretty definitive statement about all of this in January -- I'll be able to say. Here. Further recommendations that we think makes sense -- ones that we think are promising but still need to be refined further. Here's how it relates to the work we're doing not system. Not just internally but also. In partnership -- other countries. And so I'm I'm taking this very seriously because I think as I've said before this debate is needed to be head. One specific program -- 215 program is. The metadata to fall collection. Poll numbers and exchanges for the taking place. That has probably gotten the most attention at least with -- respect to domestic audiences. And what I've -- in the past. Continues to be the case which is that. The NSA. In executing this program. Believe based on experiences from 9/11. That it was important for us to be able track. If there was a phone number of of a known terrorist outside of the United States falling into the United States. Where that call might have -- And that. Having that data in one place. And retain for a certain period of time allow them. To be confident. In pursuing various investigations -- and terrorist threats. And I think it's important to note that in all the reviews of this program that have been done. In fact there have not been -- actual instances where. It's been alleged that the NSA in some ways. Acted. Inappropriately. -- The use of this data. But what is also clear is from the public debate. People are concerned about the prospect the possibility of abuse and I think that's what the judgment this report suggested. And although his opinions obviously differs from. Rulings. On the -- -- quirk. We're taking those into account. The question we're gonna have to ask is can we accomplish the same goals. That this program is intended to accomplish. In ways that give the public more confidence. That in fact in -- -- Doing what it's supposed to be doing. I have confidence and effective in -- -- not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around but I also recognize that. -- technologies change and people can start running algorithms and programs that. Map out. All of -- information were downloaded. On a daily basis and or telephones and our computers. That we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence and I'm going to be working very hard on doing that and we've got to provide more confidence the international. Community. In some ways what has been more challenges is the fact that we do have it lot of laws and checks and balances and safeguards and audits when it comes to making sure that the NSA. And other intelligence agencies are not spying on Americans. We've had less. Legal constraint in terms of what we're doing in -- nationally. But I think part of what's been interest -- about this whole exercise is recognizing that in a virtual world. Some the -- don't matter more and just because we can do something doesn't mean. We necessarily should -- the values that we've got as Americans. Are ones that we have to. Be willing to apply. Beyond our borders I think perhaps more systematically than we've done in the past. Mr. Ed Henry. Think president I want to follow on that because stuff. Merry Christmas. When Edward Stone first started leaking information you -- statement said that he felt. You claim to the American people you -- or you performed. Many of these surveillance programs and the office. Pull my team evaluated them scrubbed and hopefully we actually expanded some of the oversight he did expensive. You also say we may have to rebalance on the making changes. Would you conclude with quote you can complain about big brother and how this potential program -- when he actually look at the details. Then I think we struck the right balance I was only six months ago. Now this judge is saying no year old Palestinian even you're saying no we haven't really struck the right balance perhaps that changes -- my question -- Were you wrong -- because we're not fully ready and not just on these programs but on other programs outside -- the ones just talked about. Where we were potentially listening in on the German leaders of Brazilian leaders and others that suggest there were abuses -- one and number two. If you -- if you were fully written on these programs is another example what you use of the two -- was getting -- with this question of credibility with the American people. -- just like on health care you. You like your plan you can keep on surveillance you look at where people six months ago and said we've got the right balance and six months later saying -- enough people. -- I think it's important note that. When it comes to the right balance on surveillance. These are serious judgment calls or -- and every single day because we've got a whole bunch of folks whose job it is to make sure that the American people are protected. And that's a hard job. Because -- up and slips him a question that's coming from you. The next day at a press conferences Mr. President why did you catch that white wired to be in -- people out that's just what is under way that we could've found out. That in fact this terrorist attack took place at one so struck right -- -- is so the point is not that my assessment of the 215 program. Has changed in terms. Technically how it works. What is absolutely clear to me is that. Given the public debate that's taking place in the sport was who's taking place over the last several months. That. This is going our work if the American people have confidence and trust. Now part of the challenges is that because of the manner in which these disclosures took place in drips and drabs -- -- shaded in a particular. Way and because some of the constraints that we've had turned declassified information and getting it out there. That. That trust and how many safeguards exist and how these programs are run. Has been diminished. So what's going to be important is to build that back up. And I take that into account in Wayne how we structure -- -- so let me just be very specific problems -- drifting program. It is possible for example that some of that same information. -- tells -- -- feels as required to keep people safe. Can be obtained by having. The private. Phone companies keep these records longer and to create some mechanism where they can be accessed. In. A an effective fashion. -- might cost more. There might need to be different checks. On how those requests are made there may be -- technological. Solutions that have to be found to do that. And the question we're asking ourselves and -- Does that make sense not only because. The fact that. There are concerns about potential abuse down the road where is the meta data that's being kept by a government -- -- Companies. But also does make sense to do because people right now. Or concerned that maybe their phone calls are being listened to even if they're not. And we've got to factor that in so I -- my point is is that the environment. Has changed in ways that. I think require us to take that into account. But the analysis that I've been doing throughout has always been. Periodically looking at what we're doing and asking ourselves are we doing this in the right way. Are we making sure that -- -- the American people safe number one we also being true to -- civil liberties and our privacy and our values. I understand it's tough job and got through this military attack everyone of us in the second guessing you and that's extremely difficult being healed a lot of hope that you -- -- -- get -- you want guns. And so my question is. Do you have any personal -- are not addressing the fact the public Steve you've made to reassure the public -- Director of National Intelligence. James clapper months ago went up in a question from a Democrat a Republican. About whether -- this was going on and he -- it doesn't. Undermine the public trust and. Your inflating your personal Meehan and then mr. Crocker and -- still on the job respectful of what I'm saying is this that. Yes these are tough problems that I am glad. To have the privilege -- Your initial question was. Whether the statements that I made six months ago -- ones that I don't stand by and what I'm saying is is that. The statements I made -- are entirely consistent with the statements that I make now which is that. We believed that we had scrub these programs and struck an appropriate balance. And there had not been evidence. And their continues not to be evidence that these particular program had been abused. -- how was used. And that he was a useful tool. Working with other tools -- -- community Harris. To ensure that if we have a thread on a potential terrorist threat that can be followed -- factor. What -- also said though is that in light of the disclosures. That have taken place. It is clear that. Whatever benefits. The configuration of this particular program may have. Maybe outweighed. By the concerns that people have on its potential abuse and if that's the case there may be another way of -- the -- So. We just keep on going at this stuff. And saying can we do this better. Can we do this more effectively I think that the panel's recommendations. Our consistent -- that so few if you get a chance to read the overall recommendations what -- We're very clear -- We need this intelligence. We can't unilaterally disarm. There are ways we can do it potentially that. Gives people greater assurance that their checks and balances that there's sufficient oversight sufficient transparency. Programs like 215 could be redesigned. In ways that give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for years. And that's exactly what we should be doing is evaluate all these things very clear specific way. And moving forward on on changes and that's what I intended to -- duress -- John -- and mr. It's -- a tough period in or call it we're here here president. These groups believe -- up here in the polls. -- up and down there at a low point right now so. What what I'm asking you acknowledged difficulties with the health care roll out. But when you look back to decisions the what you did what you can do for you personally. What do you think is that your biggest. With respect to health -- specifically -- the whole thing. That is here. Well. There's no doubt. To. That -- come when it came to the helped fuel out. Even though I was meeting. Every other week. Every three weeks. With folks and emphasizing how important was that consumers had a good experience and easy experience. In getting the information they need and knowing what the choices and options -- for them to be able to get high quality affordable health care. The factors have been happening in the first month. The first six weeks in a way that was at all acceptable. And since I'm in charge -- -- we've. Screwed up. Part of -- I've said before had to do with how. I T procurement -- is done and almost predates this year. Part of it obviously has to do with the fact that. There were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in -- the technology and -- -- -- work on a whole bunch of contractors so -- whole bunch of things that. We've been taking a look at and I'm -- be making appropriate adjustments. Once we get through this year and we've gotten through the initial surge of people -- been signing up. But. You know having -- -- that. Bottom line also is is there we've got. Several million people are health care that works. And it's not that I don't. Engage a lot of self reflection here I promise you -- -- -- -- myself. You know even worse than you were Ed Henry does. On any given day but. -- also got to wake up more and make sure that. I do better the next day and that we keep moving forward. And when I look at the landscape. For next year when I say to myself there's we're poised. To do really good things. The economy is stronger than it has been in a very long time. Our next challenge that is to make sure that everybody benefits from that not just. A few folks and they're still too many people who haven't seen a raise. And are still feeling financially insecure. We can get immigration reform but we've got a concept that has bipartisan support. Let's see if we can break through politics -- You know I think that hopefully folks have learned their lesson in terms brinksmanship. Coming out of -- Coming the government shutdown. There been times where a lot about where there are other ways that I could have. Prevented. That those 34 weeks. -- the economy and hurt individual families who were. Not get a picture during that time. Absolutely but I also think that in some ways given the pattern that we've been going through -- house Republicans for a while we might have needed. Just. A little bit of a bracing. Sort of recognition that this is not what the American people thanks acceptable they want. To try to solve problems and be practical even if we can't get everything. So. The the end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what can you do better next year. That's how I intend to approach it. I'm sure that I will have even better ideas after. A couple days of sleep and some. -- -- On the debt ceiling on Treasury Secretary is estimated that the us government. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan the senate Republicans are going to decide what music. We negotiate with house Republicans -- Over -- you know the answer this question. No we're -- -- negotiate for congress to pay bills that it has accrued. Here's the good news now on our emphasize the positive. As we enter into this holiday season. I think congressman Ryan and some of the -- -- a good job in trying to narrow the differences. And actually passed -- budget that I -- It's not everything that I would like obviously. It buys back part of bees across the board cuts the Sokol sequestered. But not all. So we're still under funding the search were still under funding education. We're so underfunded no transportation. Other initiatives that would create jobs right. But. There was an honest conversation. Today. Operated in good faith and given how far far. The parties have been on fiscal issues. They should take pride in and what they did and I actually -- they. Struck the deal and and knives that congratulations and I hope that creates a good pattern. For next year where we work on at least the things we agree to even if we agree to disagree. On some of the other big ticket items. I think immigration potentially -- in that category where let's. Here's here's an area where we've got bipartisan agreement. There -- a few differences here in there but the truth of the matter is is that the senate bill has. The main. Components. Comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy. -- -- That's an opportunity -- attract more investment and high skilled workers we're doing. Great things in places like Silicon Valley. Around the country so what's going to give about. Now. I can't imagine that. Having seen this. Possible daylight breaking. -- cooperation congress. Folks are thinking actually about plunging us back into. The kinds of brinksmanship and governance by crisis. That is done so much -- over the last couple years. To repeat the debt ceiling. Is raised simply to pay fields that we have already approved. It is not something. That she is. A negotiating tool it's not leverage. The responsibility of congress is part of doing their job. I expect them to do their job although I'm happy to talk about any of the issues that. They actually want to get -- so it Carson runs interest and tax reform. What's go I've got some proposals -- he's in for student. Any issue out there. I'm want to have a constructive conversation of the sort that we just -- in resolving the budget issues but. I've I've got -- some folks are crazy enough to start that thing all over. But -- -- more personal. What is -- My New Year's resolution is to be nicer to the white house press corps. -- the world. Greater good. What -- interest thank you. Brinkley who is -- -- -- -- task force. Told sixty minutes that he was -- we're having a conversation. About granting it was. What degrees there will be pleased that he photos trial balloon and under what circumstances would you consider either plea agreement -- amnesty. And what you -- Americans -- who after possibly being. -- to jointly -- decision earlier this week reading the panel recommendations. Leaving -- -- set in motion something that is. Proper injustice and view bouts of surveillance and should not be considered by this government program. I've got to be careful here -- because. Mr. stone is under indictment he's been charged with. With crimes and that's the province of the attorney general and ultimately. A judge -- manager so. I can't weigh in specifically on this case at this point all in all make a try to see if I can get it the spirit of the question even if I can. Talk about the specifics. I've said before and -- I believe that this is an important conversation that we needed to -- I've also said before that the way in which these disclosures. Happen. Have been. Have been damaged. The United States. And damaging to -- intelligence capabilities. And I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that there. All -- to be just one specific example. That that the fact of the matter is that the United States for all our warts. Is. A country that -- by rule of law that. Cares deeply about privacy. That -- -- about civil liberties that cares about our constitution. And as customers trees -- we've got countries who. Actually. Do the things that mr. Snowden says he's worried about very explicitly. Engaging in surveillance of their own citizens. Targeting. Political dissidents. Targeting and suppressing the press. Who somehow. Are able to sit on the sidelines and act as if it's the United States. That. Has problems when it comes through surveillance and intelligence operations. And that's a pretty distorted view. What's going on up so. So I think that. As important and as necessary as this debate has been. It is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage. Two. US intelligence capabilities and US diplomacy. But I will leave it up to the courts. And the attorney general. To weigh in publicly -- on the specifics of mr. stone's case. Certainly follow up mr. -- these settings. Should these races and his -- public conversation. User would. They're going to certainly consulted if there was ever any conversation I think excuse for a plea bargain I that was I've been through -- and I guess -- I'm saying here's. There's. She would ever consider -- news is that there's a difference between mr. Leggett saying something -- the president of the United States. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- When you talk about the issues of health care and what. But there been other issues misinformed about people you can policies extended deadlines postponement. We have a new -- And HHS announced. We expect Americans to have confidence and certainty in this tall you. This one here -- -- waiver last night. Could argue you might as well delayed demanding. -- it's -- because what we're talking about is a very specific population. That. Received cancellation notices from insurance. The majority of them are either. Keeping their -- plan because the grandfather clause has been extended -- Or there -- finding. A better deal in the marketplace. What better insurance or cheaper costs. But there may still be a subset. -- significantly smaller subset of them some of the numbers that have been advertised. That. Are. Still looking for options are still concerned about. What they're going to be doing next year. And we just want to make sure that the hardship provision that was party existing in the law. -- also potentially apply to somebody who had problems during this transition after. So that's the specifics of this latest change your make -- a broader point that. That I think is is fair and that is that. In a big. Project like this. What we are constantly doing is looking is this working the way it's -- -- and if there are adjustments that can be made to smooth out the transition. We should make them. But they don't go to the -- of the law. First of all the -- of the law is is that for 85% of the population. All they've been getting news. Free preventive care. Better consumer protections the ability to keep their kids. On their insurance plan to -- 46. Thousand dollar 500 dollar discounts on prescription drugs for seniors on Medicare. So 85% of the population. Whether -- -- not over the last three years. Have benefited. From a whole -- of the provisions of the law and by the way if it were read be repealed he would be taking away. All those benefits from. From folks who RT. Or join them. You have this -- Portion of the population 15%. Who -- don't have health insurance or -- -- on the individual market. And that's still. Millions of people. And what we're doing is creating a marketplace where they can buy insurance and we can provide them some tax credits to help them -- The basic structure of that law is working despite all the problems. Despite the web site problems despite the messaging problems despite all that. It's working. And again you don't take my word for. We've got a couple million people were gonna have health insurance. Just in the first three months despite the fact -- -- -- first month and a half was lost. Because. -- with a web site and about as bad a bunch of publicity. As you could imagine. And yet you still got two million people who signed up. -- or or more. And so what that means then is that the demand is there and as I said before the product -- -- Now. In. Putting something like this together. There are going to be all kinds. Problems that crop up some of which may have been an unanticipated what we've been -- just respond to them in a common sense. Way. And we're gonna continue to try to do -- But that doesn't negate the fact that. You know a year from now or two years from now we look back we'll reveal -- -- -- even more people have health insurance -- didn't have before. And that's not a bad thing that's -- -- that is part of the reason why. I push so hard to get this law done in the first place and you know I've said before. This is a messy process and I think sometimes why certain people say well hey did -- -- -- and be. You know it isn't isn't affected has -- -- message some indication that. That are more fundamental problems with the law and I guess what I'd say to that truck is. When you try to do something. This big affecting this many people. It's going to be -- and every instance whether it's Social Security Medicare. Prescription. Drug plan under President Bush. It's there hasn't been an instance where you try to. Really have an impact on the American people's lives and well being particularly in the helter and -- You don't end up having. Some of these challenges. The questions going to be. Ultimately. Do we make good decisions. Trying to help as many as people as possible in -- sufficient to away as possible. And I think that's what we're. 72 hours ago it's changed. Where people learn by and the jokes and frankly they jump -- -- housing -- -- -- were trying to get people. Hopefully we'll keep in mind. -- first of all that. The majority of folks we're gonna have different -- this is essentially. A additional. Net. In case. Folks might have slipped through the cracks. We don't have precision on those numbers but we expect it's going to be a relatively small number because these are folks who want insurance and the vast majority -- have good options and in this state like North Carolina for example the overwhelming majority of them have just kept their own plants. So the ones -- they had previously. But it. We thought and continue to think that it makes sense that as we are transitioning to a system in which insurance standards are higher. People don't have unpleasant surprises because they thought that insurance until they hit -- limit and next thing you know they stole 100200. To 300000 miles -- hospital this. That as we transition to. Higher standards better insurance that we also address. Folks who. Get caught in that transition and their unintended consequences and I'll be that was the original terms of grandfather clause that was in the long. Obviously the problem was -- didn't catch enough people. And we learned from that and we're trying not to repeat those mistakes yeah. -- Six dogmatic. What was the message we're trying to send an Mo here not through the Sochi games but also. -- of the delegation to represent states. Well first of all I'm determined Olympics in the past and I suspect it. He'll be attending the Olympics. Particularly at a time when. Get all the other -- people been talking about is going to be tough although what to do. I'll -- go to a lot of Olympic Games post presence. There -- delegation speaks for itself -- -- outstanding Americans outstanding athletes. People who. Will represent us extraordinarily well. And you know the fact that. We've got folks like. Billie Jean King her prime what -- who who. Themselves have been world class athletes that are but he acknowledges. -- excellence but also for -- character. Who also happen to be members -- VT community. They should take that. We're. For what it's worth that -- comes -- the Olympics wrestler performance. We don't make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. We judge people -- How they perform. Both. On the court. And -- -- on the field not a and that's. A value that. The -- of the heart of just America but American sports. -- just rolled on these last few real quickly. Harsh bureau the last little White House he deserves a question. Senator Max Baucus was widely seen as the best hope for a large scale fuel to overhaul the tax code what does your decisions. After China say about your hopes -- -- -- second. It says that Max Baucus is going to be an outstanding investors China and I'd like her it's -- confirmation. And my expectation and hope is is that if both senate Democrats or if Democrats and Republicans. In the house the -- serious about. Tax -- and assigned him to ban on one -- can depend on all of us working together and my. -- this is ready willing and eager. To engage both parties and -- conversation about how we can simplify the tax code. Make it fair make it work to create more jobs and do right by middle class markets. -- -- Hikes in Hawaii and -- political -- you mock up. -- Here I'd like to ask you what your reaction was to. The nonpartisan truth telling her. Live when it says that the -- -- your statements and if you like your health care. And related. The health care. Problems that we see him -- here fallout from it seems to be making Democrats to win senate. A little rambunctious. -- -- We do that justice most fairly easy to -- -- sanctions it -- -- senate majority leader Harry Reid has expedited. Consideration. Iran sanctions bill for January. Even as your industry he had been trying to get them. To lay off sanctions while you're. The other doesn't usually destroyed in a bunch of things longer look what's -- should we -- -- -- on the question that I -- -- how -- -- separate -- the Iran question. From the helter question. Off on the health care question -- they have answered several times this is new iteration of it but bottom line is. That. -- we are going to continue to work. Every single day to make sure that. Implementation health care law and the web site and all elements of it including the grandfather clause. Work better. Every single day. And as -- certain and previous. Press conferences. There we're gonna make mistakes. And we're -- problems but my intentions. Have been clear throughout which is I was wanna help as many people as possible field. Secure and make sure that they don't go broke advocates. And -- just keep -- -- On -- wrong. There is the possibility. -- Resolution. To. A problem that has. Been a challenge for American national security for. Over a decade now. And that is getting Iran. To any verifiable fashion. Not. Pursue a nuclear war. Already even with the interim deal that we struck in Geneva we have the first -- And in some cases some rollback. Of Iran's nuclear capabilities. The first time that we've seen that in. Almost a decade. And we now have a structure in which. We can't have a very serious conversation to see is it possible for Iran to get right with the international community. In a verifiable fashion. Two. Give us all confidence that. Any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not. Going to be weaponized in a way that threatens us or allies in the region including Israel. And as I've said before I will repeat it is very important for us to test. Whether that's possible. Not because it's guaranteed. But because. The alternative. Is possibly. -- engage in some sort of conflict. To resolve the problem with all kinds of unintended consequences. I've been very clear from the start. I mean what I say. It is my goal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon but I sure would rather do it diplomatically. I'm keeping all options on the table but if I can do it diplomatically. That's how we should do and I would think that would be the preference. Everybody up on Capitol Hill is that true as the preference of the American people. And we lose nothing. During this negotiation period precisely because. There are verification provisions in place. We will have more insight into Iran's nuclear program. Over the next six months the we have previously. We'll know if there are violating the terms of the agreement. They're not allowed to accelerator. Their stockpile. Enriched uranium in fact they have to. Reduce their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Ironically if we did not have this. Six month period in which we're testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to this problem. They beat advances. Even further on -- nuclear program. And in light of all that what I've said to members of congress Democrats and Republicans -- there is no need for new sanctions legislation. Not yet. -- Iran comes back and says. We can't give you assurances that we're not weaponized. If they're not willing to address. Some of their. Capabilities. That we know could end up resulting in than having breakout capacity. It's going to be hard for us. Turn the -- back. Strengthen sanctions even for all work where members of congress to put even more pressure. On Iraq. But there's no reason to do -- right now and and I've heard some logic that says -- this present world. We're supportive. The negotiations but we think it's really useful. To have this club -- and overruns federal first -- -- we still have existing sanctions are in place. That. Are resulting in Iran. Losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales. We already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied even as the negotiations are taking place is not as if were letting up on that. -- I've heard arguments well but you know this way. We can be assured in the arrives we'll know that if negotiations fail. Even knew what harsher sanctions will be put in place -- I don't think we -- -- Have any doubt that congress would be more than happy to -- more sanctions legislation. We can do that and. In -- -- On a dime. But. If we're serious about negotiations. We've got to create an atmosphere in which. Iran is willing to move in ways that are -- comfortable -- -- and contrary to. Their ideology and rhetoric in their instincts and their suspicions of us and. If we do we don't help. Get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by. Engaging in. This kind of this kind of action right. Okay everybody I think. I'm gonna take one more question Colleen McCain Nelson and that is that. There. And longtime advisors. Eating away from you folks are coming in other users picking on fuels and west wing as you appreciate your team and it happens that changed his opinion here has -- -- -- what you think you can accomplish going. You know I just have -- with these browsers -- -- -- and that's stuff. He says of that right now at least. -- you know I I love that guy and and and that will be a significant loss although he'll still be in. Hopefully I'll be able to consult with him on an ongoing basis I think the -- that job the best is coming it'll be terrific. He may deny it but I've been trying to get him in here for quite some time he ran my transition office I asked him when he was -- the transition office -- you. Would be willing to join us about that time I think you're still feeling. That he you want to develop captain. Other organizations but. -- a great strategist. The is as good as anybody. Domestic policy. And I think you'll be a huge boost to us give us. More bandwidth. To deal -- more issues. I suspect that we may have additional announcements. In the new year. -- others there's a natural -- over the takes place. People get tired people get worn out. Sometimes in the first like us. But what I can tell you is that the team I have. Now. Is tireless and shares my values and believes. The thing that I think -- -- -- -- for five times in this press conference which is. We get this incredible privilege for -- -- short period of time to do as much as we can. For as many people as we can to help them live better lives. And that's what drives -- that's. The sacrifice they make being away from families of soccer games of birthdays and some more wind up working over Christmas on issues -- The fact that they make those kinds of sacrifices. I'm always grateful for and they then say to me after making those sacrifices for 345. Years. You know I -- -- break. You know them. That I completely understand. Right have a great all everybody -- should -- And -- that slap on the back for -- staff the president heads off to Hawaii. He -- the tough questions were coming and they did right from the start the first question is this the worst year. Of your presidency they kept on coming on health care on the domestic surveillance program on his personal credibility the president. Kept his cool throughout most of the press conference talked up the economy admitted. That his team screwed up health care and said that he believed. America was poised for a breakthrough year in 2014. Even John -- is in the briefing room their city's gonna make a New Year's resolution. As well as can be -- to the press can 2014. And you all did test -- patience with some tough questions today. -- that's right it was. Interest thing is suffers -- in my question about whether or not he has made any major mistakes was his biggest mistake. He didn't hear a specific mistake from him but he did say he was gonna. Spend some time with the end of the year for some reflection of what can be done to the 2014 a better year in the very top of this George. He said the 2014. Needs to be a year of action. And I also thought I saw what might have been a little bit of of a sense that there could be. More staff changes as a result of the health care. Problems next year -- -- once we get through the role enrollment. Process that's march 31 is when -- all -- People look at whether or not more adjustments need to be made because -- you know there's been no significant. Firing here nobody -- lost their job. There have been no real shake up as a result of that disastrous health care roll out. Illustrating the prison and a little news on health care as well -- one million people signed up. For health care through the federal and state exchanges -- -- Jon Karl thanks very much. We're return at a regular programming Diane Sawyer we'll have more tonight on world news -- is not an abcnews.com. And help -- join -- Sunday morning. On this week will take stock of 2013. And analyze what's ahead in the new year on our powerhouse roundtable have a good. This has been a special -- From ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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