WASHINGTON — President Obama needled a GOP senator Tuesday, then praised Republicans working to solve the immigration riddle. He pledged to reengage with Congress to close the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, then decried the intractability of Congress. He cast Republicans as potential allies, then criticized their obstruction.
When it comes to his relations with Congress, President Obama is a man of two minds.
‘‘It comes as no surprise, not even to the American people but even members of Congress themselves, that right now things are pretty dysfunctional up on Capitol Hill,’’ Obama said during a news conference marking the 100th day of his second term. ‘‘Despite that, I’m actually confident that there are a range of things that we’re going to be able to get done.’’
The limits of Obama’s success with Congress have dogged his presidency since Republicans won control of the House in 2010. A fiscal ‘‘grand bargain’’ containing tax increases and long-term spending reductions has eluded him. The automatic budget cuts that he once vowed ‘‘will not happen’’ kicked in March 1. His push to win an expansion of background checks for buyers of firearms succumbed in the Senate.
During his 47-minute appearance in the White House briefing room, Obama’s answers illustrated the complicated and sometimes contradictory approach he has taken in his dealings with lawmakers.
At one point, he complimented Republican senators he has met with, saying they appear to have a ‘‘genuine desire’’ to get beyond the gridlock of Washington. Yet moments before, he offered a scornful response to an assertion by Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, that national security protections have deteriorated since he became president.
‘‘Graham is not right on this issue,’’ Obama said, ‘‘although I’m sure he generated some headlines.’’
He was dismissive when a questioner asked: ‘‘Do you still have the juice to get the rest of your agenda through this Congress?’’
‘‘If you put it that way,’’ he told ABC’s Jonathan Karl, ‘‘maybe I should just pack up and go home. Golly.’’