President Barack Obama’s path around Congress will be a pen and phone, he said in remarks before a cabinet meeting Tuesday, affirming his ability to take executive action when Congress blocks his legislative goals.
“So Congress is going to be busy, and I’m looking forward to working with Democrats and Republicans, House members and Senate members, to try to continue to advance the economic recovery and to provide additional ladders of opportunity for everybody,” Obama said. “But one of the things that I’ll be emphasizing in this meeting is the fact that we are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we’re providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone.”
Republicans have criticized Obama for taking executive action in the past on matters such as the unpopular health law, gun control, immigration and carbon emission rules without authorization from Congress.
Before the cabinet meeting, Obama didn’t seem likely to scale back in 2014, which he called a “year of action.”
“I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward in helping to make sure our kids are getting the best education possible and making sure that our businesses are getting the kind of support and help they need to grow and advance to make sure that people are getting the skills that they need to get those jobs that our businesses are creating,” the president said.
“I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life—nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities—to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme: making sure that this is a country where if you work hard, you can make it,” he continued.
Asked about the forthcoming executive actions, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the president will seize opportunities to work with Congress when possible.
“But he will not limit himself and certainly doesn’t think the American people would want him to limit himself just to what he could do legislatively through Congress,” Carney said during the press briefing Tuesday. “As president, there is a lot more he can do and he has demonstrated that throughout his term in office. He will continue to do that with renewed vigor this year because there is much to be done and there is great opportunity to get it done using every means available to him.”
When talking to reporters before the cabinet meeting, the president did not talk about many specifics. He again called on Congress to extend jobless benefits. He also said he planned to meet with university presidents and business leaders.
“I’ll also be pulling together university presidents from all across the country to talk about how we can make college education more accessible to more young people around this country,” the president said.
“We’re going to be bringing CEOs from across the country to also have a conversation about commitments they can make to start hiring the long-term unemployed—people who oftentimes have terrific skills, have a great work ethic, have wonderful experience, but because of the misfortune of having been laid off or lost their jobs during the depths of an extremely severe recession, have been out of work long enough that now we’re finding it’s very hard for them to just get in the door and make their case to an employer; that there’s some screening that’s taking place for people who have been out of work for more than a month or two and it makes it harder for them to get the kind of shot that they need,” the president continued.
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