* Immigration reform, economic growth top Obama to-do list
* Energy, gun control round out second term priorities
* Obama wants immigration, gun measures in first year
By Mark Felsenthal
WASHINGTON, Dec 30 President Barack Obama is
pledging to focus in his second term on immigration reform,
boosting economic growth through infrastructure repair and
energy policies that nod to environmental protection.
The president is mired in a difficult fight with
congressional Republicans to avoid sharp spending cuts and steep
tax increases collectively referred to as the "fiscal cliff."
However, he still has a longer-term to-do list for his remaining
four years in office, he said in an interview on NBC's "Meet the
Press" that was broadcast on Sunday.
Obama, who won re-election in November after a campaign in
which he succeeded in painting himself as a strong advocate for
the middle class and those aspiring to join it, also promised in
the interview to make a run at passing gun control legislation
in the first year of his second term.
"Fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority," he
said. He renewed a pledge to introduce legislation in the first
year of his second term to get it done.
Immigration reform is a sensitive subject for the president,
who failed to fulfill his promise to revamp the system during
his first term. Latino voters were a critical part of the
coalition that helped get him re-elected, a fact that may soften
political opposition from Republicans, who are eager to bolster
their support with that demographic group.
Immigration reform supporters on the left believe that the
11 million undocumented foreigners in the United States should
be allowed a path to work toward citizenship. But opponents
believe that this approach would reward people who broke the law
by coming to the United States illegally.
Republicans have sought stronger measures to keep illegal
immigrants from entering the United States from Mexico.
Advocates on both sides of the debate want to more effectively
verify legal workers in an economy in which businesses want to
hire non-U.S. workers ranging from low-paid farm hands to
While negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff have hogged the
spotlight in the first weeks after the election, Obama said he
wants to take steps to ensure the sluggish recovery gains steam.
Many observers had believed a persistently high level of
unemployment would thwart Obama's chances of winning a second
term. The U.S. jobless rate peaked at 10 percent in 2009 after
the harshest recession since the Great Depression but has been
falling and dipped to 7.7 percent in November.
The president said rebuilding crumbling roads, bridges and
schools could put people back to work and put the economy on a
sounder footing. He said he would pair those steps - which
would likely involve government spending - with deficit
reduction measures to tame the nation's budget deficit.
The president also said energy policy would be a leading
emphasis. He said he would focus on how the country can produce
more energy and export energy, while also dealing with
environmental challenges. He did not specify how he would do
that. The president's effort to fight climate change with a
broad emissions trading system failed during his first term.
When pressed, Obama added gun control to his list of
priorities, reiterating his support for a ban on assault rifles
and high capacity clips, as well as background checks.