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President Obama's news conference -- full text

(Page 7 of 13)



And I'm very confident that, with our commander on the ground, Gen. Odierno, with Chris Hill, our new ambassador, having been approved and already getting his team in place, that they are going to be able to work effectively with the Maliki government to create the conditions for an ultimate transfer after the national elections.

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But there's some — some serious work to do on making sure that how they divvy up oil revenues is ultimately settled, what the provincial powers are and boundaries, the relationship between the Kurds and the central government, the relationship between the Shia and the Kurds. Are they incorporating effectively Sunnis, Sons of Iraq, into the structure of the armed forces in a way that's equitable and just?

Those are all issues that have not been settled the way they need to be settled. And what we've done is, we've provided sufficient time for them to get that work done, but we've got to keep the pressure up, not just on the military side, but on the diplomatic and development sides, as well.

Chip Reid?

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. On Senator Specter's switch to the Democratic Party, you said you were thrilled; I guess nobody should be surprised about that.

But how big a deal is this, really? Some Republicans say it is huge. They believe it's a game-changer. They say that, if you get the 60 votes in the Senate, that you will be able to ride roughshod over any opposition, and that we're on the verge of, as one Republican put it, one-party rule.

Do you see it that way? And, also, what do you think his switch says about the state of the Republican Party?

OBAMA: Well, first of all, I think very highly of Arlen Specter. I think he's got a record of legislative accomplishment that is as good as any member of the Senate.

And I think he's always had a strong independent streak. I think that was true when he was a Republican; I think that will be true when he's a Democrat.

He was very blunt in saying I couldn't count on him to march lockstep on every single issue. And so he's going to still have strong opinions, as many Democrats in the Senate do.

I've been there. It turns out, all the senators have very strong opinions. And I don't think that's going to change.

I do think that having Arlen Specter in the Democratic caucus will liberate him to cooperate on critical issues, like health care, like infrastructure and job creation, areas where his inclinations were to work with us, but he was feeling pressure not to.

And I think the vote on the Recovery Act was a classic example. Ultimately, he thought that was the right thing to do. And he was fiercely berated within his own party at the time for having taken what I consider to be a very sensible step. So — so I think it's, overall, positive.

Now, I am under no illusions that suddenly I'm going to have a rubber-stamp Senate. I've got Democrats who don't agree with me on everything, and that's how it should be.

Congress is a coequal branch of government. Every senator who's there, whether I agree with them or disagree with them, I think truly believes that they are doing their absolute best to represent their constituencies.

And we've got regional differences, and we've got some parts of the country that are affected differently by certain policies. And those have to be respected, and there's going to have to be compromise and give-and-take on all of these issues.

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