Back in Washington, Obama looks ahead to final days in office

President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Dec. 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is back at the White House after his last presidential vacation. He returned to Washington today from Hawaii with less than three weeks left.

His final days will largely be taken up by an effort to protect his endangered health care law. And he’s planning a major farewell speech.

In an email to supporters Monday, Obama says his speech next week follows a tradition set in 1796 when the first president, George Washington, spoke to the American people for the last time in office. The speech will take place at McCormick Place, a giant convention center in Obama’s hometown of Chicago.

Obama says it’s “a chance to say thank you for this amazing journey.” He also tells supporters it’s an opportunity “to celebrate the ways you’ve changed this country for the better these past eight years, and to offer some thoughts on where we all go from here.”

The White House says Obama is also planning last-minute commutations and pardons. That’s in line with his second-term effort to cut sentences for inmates given harsh sentences for drug crimes.

As Donald Trump and Republicans vow to gut the Affordable Care Act, Democrats are working to devise a strategy to protect the law by exploiting GOP divisions about how to replace it.

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