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Here's a way to look at the year 2013 for President Barack Obama: He began the year with two-thirds of Americas saying they approved of the job he was doing. He's ending the year with that number around 40 percent.
He began fresh off a hard-fought electoral victory, going into his second term with a pretty ambitious agenda. He's ending the year with many of his priorities stalled.
In the two-year, $2 trillion budget deal that cleared the Senate last week, one item, worth just one-sixth of 1 percent of that total, was the reason many senators said they voted against it.
That item would produce some $6 billion in savings by shaving a percentage point off annual cost-of-living adjustments, and it would apply only to military pensions. Not all military pensions — just the retirement paid to veterans younger than 62.
We're going to hear now from the woman charged with streamlining the Pentagon's roughly $700 billion annual budget.
CHRISTINE FOX: We have to curb the growth of the compensation of our force. It's grown 40 percent above inflation over the last decade. And it's fully half of our budget. So, we have to slow the growth.
Turning back to this country and the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency. This week, it became clear that President Obama will likely make some changes to how the spy agency does its work. How far those changes go? Well, that's an open question. Will they, for example, adjust or even end the bulk collection of phone records? At his press conference yesterday, the president said that is part of the discussion.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. And President Obama's in Hawaii today. His family flew there last night for their annual Christmas getaway. Just before leaving Washington, D.C., the President put a stamp on 2013 with a year-end news conference. At times, his parting encounter with reporters seemed as rough as the year just ending. NPR's Ari Shapiro was there.
The U.S. Senate wrapped up its first session of the 113th Congress yesterday. Despite modest signs of bipartisanship near the end of the session, this year's been lampooned as one of the least productive years in the history of the legislative branch, one mired in partisan strife. NPR's congressional reporter, Ailsa Chang, joins us now. Ailsa, thanks for being with us.
AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
It's the season of peace and goodwill, but President Obama may have tested the limits of both with some comments at his end-of-year news conference.
Asked if he would negotiate with congressional Republicans about the debt ceiling, Obama said he wouldn't do so over raising the limit, though he was willing to talk with Rep. Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican and House Budget Committee chairman, about other issues, like tax reform.