January 27th, 2014
11:31 AM ET
10 months ago

State of the Union: The presidency - feeling feisty

(CNN) – After the start of the New Year, President Barack Obama's top advisers called a group of reporters into a small basement conference room and let it be known a new day had arrived at the White House.

Stung by a year of setbacks in 2013, senior administration officials described the President refreshed from his Hawaiian vacation and ready to embark on what they called a "year of action" - shorthand for pushing policy initiatives with or without the help of Congress.

CNN's live, comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starts at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday. Go to CNN.com for complete coverage or take it with you on your iPhone, iPad or Android.

For weeks, aides to the President have hinted at a State of the Union address tilted more toward executive action than legislation.

White House officials already have said Obama will call for executive branch solutions for job training and retirement security, and more are coming.

"We're putting an extra emphasis on it in 2014," senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer told CNN in reference to the President's ability to shape policy on his own.

A feistier Obama White House can be summed up in his now familiar refrain that he has "a pen and a phone," referring to what the administration sees as a clear constitutional authority to take a variety of actions without congressional approval.

Democratic strategists note some of the renewed emphasis on a more presidential view of governing followed the arrival of Obama's new counselor, John Podesta, a former chief of staff in the Clinton administration.

"It was a big Clinton tool in the second term," White House veteran and CNN Political Analyst Stephanie Cutter said. "Everyone talks about all that got done under Clinton. Well, most of it was executive action."

Just days into 2014, Obama ordered his administration to tighten the federal background check system to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns.

The move came nearly a year after Obama made an impassioned plea for new gun control laws in his 2013 State of the Union address.

"They deserve a vote," Obama said of victims of the Newtown school massacre and other mass shootings.

But that vote eventually failed in the Senate.

Obama still needs Congress for major legislative priorities such as immigration reform and an increase in the minimum wage, and Republicans decry any White House effort to govern by executive action.

"He also has a Constitution," House Speaker John Boehner said of the President's "pen and phone" rhetoric.

But after a government shutdown last October, repeated GOP attempts to repeal Obamacare, and a legislative agenda largely stalled in Congress, the White House is sounding less parliamentary in tone.

White House spokesman Jay Carney acknowledged Monday that Obama was frustrated by the lack of progress in trying to work with Congress.

"Well, he's an American citizen and it stands to reason that he might be frustrated with Congress, since most American citizens are," Carney said.


Filed under: State of the Union
soundoff (10 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    "A feistier Obama White House can be summed up in his now familiar refrain that he has "a pen and a phone," referring to what the administration sees as a clear constitutional authority to take a variety of actions without congressional approval."
    -------------------------
    What Pres. Obama really needs is leverage. When Republicans don't have any leverage, they simply manufacture it. Am I lying?

    January 27, 2014 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  2. Sniffit

    ""Everyone talks about all that got done under Clinton. Well, most of it was executive action.""

    Yeah, but Clinton was a white dude so executive action was ok. The GOP/Teatrolls are absolutely enraged and infuriated by the idea of a black dude "tellin' me what to do....ain't no way no how...upitty something something dictator tyrant blah blah impeachment!!!!"

    January 27, 2014 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    Go for the jugular Mr. President!

    January 27, 2014 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  4. with a grain of salt

    95% of wealth to the top 1%,, and the gop solution is more money straight to the top, tax cuts for the rich is clearly the answer

    January 27, 2014 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Jonathon Powelly

    Obama's only option is through executive action. The House will never pass any legislation viewed as helping Democrats retain the White House in 2016.

    January 27, 2014 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  6. with a grain of salt

    And the gop firmly stands by their economic ideologies, tax cuts for the top -1%, and all we be well again, that is seriously what ygry want you yo believe. That's total BS.

    January 27, 2014 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  7. just asking

    with a grain of salt
    And the gop firmly stands by their economic ideologies, tax cuts for the top -1%, and all we be well again, that is seriously what ygry want you yo believe. That's total BS.
    -–

    i guess you are totally oblivious to the fact that ny state is running ads trying to lure businesses there by offering them no taxes for 10 years and obama has copied a rand paul idea for tax free zones to try and attact companies and jobs? i guess these democrats are brain dead trickle down ideologues too?

    January 27, 2014 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  8. gts58

    These poll numbers are bogus. Obama's poll numbers among "Working Americans" is only in the 20 to 25 percent rate – his only majority support comes from welfare recipients and Blacks!

    January 27, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  9. J'Cincinnati'Redd

    Hard work, better choices and dont have baby daddy's. Get an education and believe in GOD. trust me,wealth will come your way quickly. Obama,can not bring you wealth.

    January 27, 2014 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. Harold Read

    "feeling feisty" = ready to stomp around like a Banana Republic Dictator. The Constitution is just an old rag.

    What do you expect from a guy who demands cooperation then spend $ millions to campaign for your opponents.
    How much does the OFA charge for a meeting with Obama?

    January 27, 2014 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |