President Barack Obama put lawmakers on notice during his first official cabinet meeting of the year, telling his top deputies that his 2014 agenda will move forward whether Congress votes for it or not.
On Tuesday morning, the White House press corps was allowed to film part of a meeting between the president and his cabinet officials. Obama’s opening remarks focused on his desire to pass comprehensive immigration reform and extend unemployment benefits. “Congress is going to be busy,” he said, “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 avenues of opportunity for everybody.”
But if Congress balks, Obama promised he’s prepared to go it alone.
“One of the things I’ll be emphasizing in this meeting,” he said, “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,” the president asserted, “and 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, 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.”
“And I’ve got a phone,” he continued, “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.”
Since Democrats lost control of the House in 2010, the Obama administration has increasingly ignored Congress and relied on administrative fiat to advance the president’s agenda. In 2012, he appointed three lawyers to the National Labor Relation Board without Senate approval, bypassing Senate confirmation procedures in a move three separate federal judges have declared unconstitutional. And the president has repeatedly delayed or altered vast portions of Obamacare without returning the legislation to Congress, in what many legal scholars view as a usurpation of Congress’ power to make laws.
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