President Barak Obama gestures as he answers a question from the media during a press conference at the conclusion of the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia, Sunday, Nov. 16, 2014.
BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — Eager to deflect the lame-duck label, President Barack Obama touted his unexpectedly productive swing through the Asia Pacific as a "strong week for American leadership" that resulted in deals with China and other regional powers on issues like climate change, trade and economic growth.
But even before Air Force One departed Australia, where Obama attended the Group of 20 economic forum, the president already was eyeing confrontations in Washington with congressional Republicans on immigration and the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The president showed no sign of backing down on his plans to issue executive orders on immigration that will shield possibly around 5 million immigrants living in the country illegally from deportation. Obama has pledged to act before the end of the year. He said his timing would not be affected by threats from some Republicans who say they'll try to include measures to block the orders in must-pass spending bills — a step that could lead to a government shutdown.
"I take Mitch McConnell at his word that the government is not going to shut down," Obama said of the Kentucky Republican and incoming Senate majority leader who has previously rejected talk of a shutdown. Obama repeated his pledge to abandon his executive orders if House Republicans were to quickly hold a vote on comprehensive immigration legislation that passed the Senate earlier this year.
Taking on another area of tension between the White House and Republicans, the president all but threatened to veto congressional legislation that seeks to force construction of an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas. The House passed a bill last week and the Senate is expected to move on the measure in the coming days.
The Keystone pipeline has been a pet project for Republicans for the past several years. But now some members of Obama's own Democratic party see a political incentive in forcing a vote, most notably Sen. Mary Landrieu of oil and gas-producing Louisiana who faces a December runoff with her Republican challenger in the midterm elections.
Obama showed little sign of being willing to sign off on a bill in an attempt to give Landrieu a political lifeline. Instead, he reiterated his long-standing position that the only way the project could move forward is if a State Department review declared it environmentally sound.
"We have to let the process play out," he said. While Obama and Republican lawmakers talked of cooperation in the days after the GOP took control of the Senate in midterm elections this month, the confrontations over immigration and the pipeline appear to make it more likely that the two sides will fall back into the same pattern of gridlock that defined the president's last four years in office.
With that in mind, Obama has appeared to relish in being away from Washington this week, embracing his ability to strike deals with foreign leaders that don't require approval from Congress. The crowning achievement of his trip was an agreement with China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, marking the first time Beijing has outlined such a plan.
Obama also highlighted the agreement among the G20 leaders to boost global gross domestic product by more than $2 trillion over five years by investing in infrastructure and increasing trade.
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