Obama looks to bypass Congress: 'I've got a pen'
January 14th, 2014
10:45 AM ET
8 months ago

Obama looks to bypass Congress: 'I've got a pen'

Washington (CNN) -  It's the new White House catch-phrase for 2014: "Year of Action."

Those words have been on President Barack Obama's mind over the last few weeks, earning a mention at December's year-end news conference and in his weekly address to the nation last Saturday. Administration officials are hinting it will be one of the major theme's of the President's upcoming State of the Union speech.

For the White House, that means avoiding the path that has often ended in inaction, namely Congress.

Tuesday, at his first cabinet meeting of the year, the President said he will work with lawmakers to pass legislation but he indicated he is prepared to use executive actions more frequently to advance administration goals.

"We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we are providing Americans the kind of help that they need. I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone," Obama told his Cabinet

Over the coming weeks, Obama will be looking for ways to bypass Capitol Hill to further the administration's "action" agenda, which White House officials say will be aimed at reducing income inequality and sending a jolt into the nation's sometimes sluggish recovery.

On Wednesday, the President will travel to the campus of North Carolina State University to announce what the White House calls "a new public-private effort to boost advanced manufacturing," according to an email from senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer.

"The President will use every tool he can to create new jobs and opportunities for the middle class. He will be looking for areas of bipartisan cooperation, but he won't be waiting on Congress to act," Pfeiffer said.

The following day, the President and First Lady will host an event at the White House to discuss ways to not only make college more affordable but to make sure graduates enter the workforce with the right skills.  That event will demonstrate another new White House goal, to host more gatherings of like-minded policy advocates who share the President's domestic policy agenda.

Along those same lines, the White House last week unveiled its "Promise Zone" initiative, another administration endeavor seeking to bolster economic development in at-risk communities. The common denominator in all of those efforts: no Congressional approval required.

In his weekly address last weekend, the President framed Congress as only part of the equation for addressing the nation's needs. "I'll keep doing everything I can to create new jobs and new opportunities for American families – with Congress, on my own, and with everyone willing to play their part," Obama said.

Even after much of the administration's 2013 legislative agenda, from gun control to immigration reform, ran into roadblocks in a bitterly divided Congress, the White House has no interest in isolating itself from the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Already there are emerging divisions among Democrats in the Senate over potential new sanctions legislation targeting Iran. Add to that new reforms aimed at limiting surveillance programs at the National Security Agency that will likely require congressional approval.

After his trip to North Carolina, the President will sit down with the Senate Democratic caucus Wednesday evening to discuss the party's "shared priorities for 2014," a White House official said.


Filed under: Congress • President Obama
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA -aka- Take Back The House -aka- No Redemption Votes

    It's a god phrase because it goes to show that the Congress has done NOTHING!!!

    January 14, 2014 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  2. Sniffit

    A proper exercise of the Executive Branch's authority is not "bypassing" Congress. "Bypassing" implies that it is something that should have gone through Congress, but if it is a proper exercise of executive authority it never needed to do so. Thanks for the misleading subtext spin narrative, CNN.

    January 14, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. tom l

    So basically nothing new here to report. Our president just loves to go around Congress and make his own rules anyways...

    January 14, 2014 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  4. Silence DoGood

    Bush signed almost 300 executive orders covering power plays, religious establishment, bigger government, and many others. All presidents from G.Washington on down have exercised this presidential privilege. Of course when Obama does the same thing it is like he just invented it to the Radical Right.

    And the "Promise Zone" thing is aimed at getting children educated and in the workforce, not a faceless handout. Of course conservatives in attack-dog mode are not really aware of subtlety.

    January 14, 2014 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  5. bobo

    Lame Duck....... Oh.... and only 24% of young people signed up for Obamacare... not the 40% you needed! Disaster!

    January 14, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  6. Educate Yourselves

    You must have missed that whole shared power thing in the Constitution Mr. President – I thought that you taught Constitutional law......I'd double check your resume' and your college transcripts to verify your background in the subject except you haven't released them.....

    January 14, 2014 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  7. CryBabies

    Not much of a leader. Why not take your ball and go home....less damage to our country that way.

    January 14, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  8. Enough is Enough

    So once again it's all about the children, right Silence? I say follow the money......that will always get you to the truth.....

    January 14, 2014 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. CryBabies

    @ Silence DoGood.....I think its the word "promise" that has people worked up. Seems logical under the circumstances, eh?

    January 14, 2014 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  10. carlos

    The Tea Party ran on the mantra of "absolutely no compromise." This is what happens when all you can do is cry wolf. Congress is supposed to be the body where ideas are introduced and debated with the intent of arriving at solutions. We need to make these "children" understand that if they can't make a choice, somebody has to choose for them. Or, get on board and look for solutions. So tired of the stalemate.

    January 14, 2014 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  11. CryBabies

    People have a problem when BO uses the word "promise". Hasn't worked too well up to now.

    January 14, 2014 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  12. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    the White House last week unveiled its "Promise Zone" initiative, another administration endeavor seeking to bolster economic development in at-risk communities. The common denominator in all of those efforts: no Congressional approval required.
    -------------------------------------------------
    I commend the President on his Year of Action endeavor.
    And I m very gratified that he's decided to enact it without counting on Congressional support. I only wish he'd done this a lot sooner in his second term.
    It is gratifying to see that the President recognizes that NOTHING that will benefit the middle class is going to get throough Congress.
    It is also sad to see that even he is seeing the handwriting on the wall from Democrats that could win these contests this year if only they'd rally together and stand proudly supporting their efforts but are choosing instead to turn tail and do what they do best when confronted with an election: cave and deny as oppose to sticking their fingers in the GOP oppoment's various self-inflicted gun shot wounds.
    Thank you for forging ahead on our behalf with or without them Mr. President.

    January 14, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  13. GaryO

    It's about time. In this political climate, bypassing Congress is completely appropriate.

    Why should we let those anti-government, anti-American Tea Party thugs in Congress continually hamper progress?

    January 14, 2014 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  14. Warren

    tom l
    So basically nothing new here to report. Our president just loves to go around Congress and make his own rules anyways...

    Sounds more like maybe he just wants to get things done...Congress leaves him no choice but to go around them.

    January 14, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  15. Enough is Enough

    @Carlos – excuse me but who was the last one to say they they absolutely would not compromise? I'll help you – it was the President. He and Dingy Harry don't seem to understand how good government works – through compromise. What compromise was there in Obamacare? None. What cmpromise was there with the fiscal cliff? essentially none. Now he plans to legislate through executive order and recess appointments.....if the Congress breks for lunch he seems to want to claim that he can make appointments.....

    January 14, 2014 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  16. Warren

    I'll bet that if The President wanted to reform the ACA. Congress would block it......

    January 14, 2014 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  17. Silence DoGood

    @CryBabies
    @ Silence DoGood.....I think its the word "promise" that has people worked up. Seems logical under the circumstances, eh?
    ---------–
    Well there are two choices. Reasonable people might say "wow that is a good program because it lifts up youth instead of just giving them a hand out". The second choice is the Beavis and Butthead one word trigger response: "eh, eh he said promise, eh eh" as you have demonstrated.

    I think even if Obama came out proposing tax cuts and repealing gun laws, conservative attack dogs would still foam at the mouth because the plan is "Obama bad, must say bad things about him".

    January 14, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  18. sonny chapman

    A Sad Day for American Democracy. It's deep in Obama's DNA to try to work with folks whom you disagree with. He's given up on Congress & the Repubs. Our Red Tribe/Blue Tribe situation is almost as bad as Iraq Shiite/Sunnis.

    January 14, 2014 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  19. Sniffit

    "You must have missed that whole shared power thing in the Constitution Mr. President"

    SEPARATION OF POWERS, not sharing of powers. Separate means you have yours and I have mine. While there's considerable overlap in some ways in terms of subject matter, etc., there is nothing that requires the POTUS to go through Congress in order to effectively, appropriately and legally/constitutionally exercise executive authority.

    January 14, 2014 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. Smitty

    When hope and changed led to point and blame, Cant wait to see how this works out for the BIGGESTT LIAR OF THE YEAR WINNER. Try Hear my Flautence LOL !!!!

    January 14, 2014 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  21. marcindc

    Why let something like the Unites States Constitution get in the way of a self anointed genius community organizer with a teleprompter and a lapdog press? The inept community organizer's government of the lies, by the lies, and for the lies of the leftist liberal democrats will end up on the ash heap history like those of most fraudulent and corrupt leaders. The amateurish and deceitful policies the community organizer and his supporters have inflicted on this nation for their own self and narrow interests will start to crumble in the mid-term elections coming up. We can start dismantling the community organizers fraudulent policies and work on getting our financial, political, personal and religious freedoms back that the constitution guarantees and that the community organizer only uses as talking points.

    January 14, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  22. sonny chapman

    Obama spent 5 YEARS trying to get Congress & D.C. to become functional. Now he's working on his Legacy.

    January 14, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  23. Lisa P.

    CryBabies

    Not much of a leader. Why not take your ball and go home....less damage to our country that way.
    January 14, 2014 11:09 am at 11:09 am
    --------------------------------
    I wouldn't say too much about sore losers if I were you. You chose your name well.

    January 14, 2014 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  24. Sniffit

    ""So basically nothing new here to report. Our president just loves to go around Congress and make his own rules anyways..."

    Sounds more like maybe he just wants to get things done...Congress leaves him no choice but to go around them."

    Except it's not "going around" Congress to legally and constitutionally exercise executive powers. Be very careful you don't simply adopt the language the MSM feeds you. "Going around" can only be determined and argued in light of the specifics of a particular action that is claimed to be a legal, constitutional exercise of executive power. Starting from the idea that any such actions are automatically "bypassing" or "going around" Congress in entirely wrongheaded and evidence s CNN's/the MSM's lack of critical thought and deliberate pushing of misperceptions to lay the foundation for future nontroversies and "scandals."

    January 14, 2014 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. jinx9to88

    Unfortunately the GOP does not want the economy to improve anytime soon cause they know as long as the economy is sluggish the American people will blame the party in office. Sad for the people looking for work.

    January 14, 2014 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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