President Barack Obama appeared on NBC's "Meet The Press" on Sunday, talking about the "fiscal cliff" negotiations and priorities for his administration in his second term.
The president told host David Gregory that he was optimistic something will be worked out to keep tax rates from rising on Tuesday -- but if not, his first piece of legislation for the next Congress will be a bill to reduce tax rates on most Americans.
The president also spoke about his second term and what he wants to accomplish. Here are highlights of what he said:
Gun control after the Newtown killings
"Something fundamental in America has to change," said Obama, who visited on December 16 with families of victims of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shootings.
The president said Sunday he will put forth a proposal next year to change firearm laws. Among the things the legislation will address are assault-style rifles, high-capacity ammunition magazines and background checks on all firearm sales.
His comments echoed those made five days after the shootings in Newtown, where a gunman killed his mother at home, then 20 children and six adults at an elementary school.
Obama said he hopes that the Newtown killings spur Americans to take action and not let the shootings feel like "one of those routine episodes," the emotions of which fade with memory.
""It certainly won't feel like that to me. This is something that, you know, that was the worst day of my presidency," he said.
The president said he wanted to listen to all the parties involved in the gun control debate but was skeptical about the National Rifle Association's call to put armed guards in every school as the only solution.
Obama said December 19 that a task force led by Vice President Joe Biden will have legislative recommendations in January.
Obama said the security failures that led to the deaths of four Americans at the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, were "severe," but he blamed human mistakes.
"There was just some sloppiness -- not intentional -- in terms of how we secure embassies in areas where you essentially don't have governments that have a lot of capacity to protect those embassies," he said.
The State Department will implement all of the 29 recommendations by a review board headed by veteran diplomat Thomas Pickering.
The FBI also has some "very good leads" into who carried out the September attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others, Obama said.
Among the recommendations in the report sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were strengthening security, adding fire-safety precautions and improving intelligence collection in high-threat areas.
"But we'll try to do more than that," Obama said.
U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice
The president said verbal attacks on Rice for her comments on the Benghazi investigation were "puzzling."
"Of all the people in my national security team, she probably had the least to do with anything that happened in Benghazi," he said.
Rice said on Sunday news programs in the days following the attack that it was the result of a protest against an online anti-Islam film.
She was heavily criticized for those statements, to the point that she withdrew her name from consideration as the next secretary of state to avoid what she called a "lengthy, disruptive, and costly" confirmation process. Critics said Rice's comments were out of line with the true intelligence about the incident and were an attempt by the administration to avoid tying it to terrorism.
"Most Americans recognize that these were largely politically motivated attacks as opposed to being justified," Obama said.
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