WH: Obama wants to work with Congress, but will use executive order

Jan. 27, 2014 at 4:31 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 27 (UPI) -- President Obama wants to work with the U.S. Congress, but isn't afraid to wield his executive pen if needed, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday.

Offering glimpses into Obama's State of the Union on Tuesday, Carney suggested the speech includes several "very ambitious" goals.

"I think restoring security and economic vitality to the middle class is a very ambitious goal," Carney said during a media briefing. "Restoring opportunity for all and expanding opportunity for all, those are very ambitious goals."

As he works to complete those goals, Obama "will use every means available to him to move forward toward achievement of those goals, and that includes working with Congress and passing legislation and signing it where Congress will work with him," Carney said.

"But he simply won't stop there, because mindful of Congress' reluctance to be cooperative at times, the president is going to exercise his authority," Carney said. "He's going to use his pen and his phone to advance an agenda that is focused squarely on expanding opportunity, making sure that in America hard work and responsibility are rewarded, and that opportunity is expanded."

Carney warned it would be wrong to judge success strictly by the number of bills passed and signed into law.

"[The] opportunity for advancing the agenda that the president has through other means is broad and deep, and he'll explore it," the spokesman said.

Obama was still working on his speech Monday, Carney said.

"[He] views 2014 as a year of action and that he has tasked his team to come up with new ways in which we can -- he can -- advance that agenda," Carney said, whether through legislative proposals, signing executive orders or using his bully pulpit "by bringing people together around an issue so that it gets the focus that a White House event or endorsement can give it."

Asked if Obama was frustrated with the divided Congress, Republicans control the House and Democrats the Senate, Carney said, "Well, he's an American citizen, and it stands to reason that he might be frustrated with Congress, since most American citizens are."

"That doesn't mean that we can't get things done with Congress," the spokesman added. "He's also very optimistic."

Noting the bipartisan cooperation on the recent passage of the budget bill, Carney said there were other opportunities for bipartisanship, particularly on comprehensive immigration reform.

Carney said it was a "very exciting to be here and confronted with the opportunity to take action that the president sees before him."

That means Obama will work with Congress when possible, as well as "moving forward using his authority where Congress won't work with us. And I think that's what the American people expect of him and of the others they sent to Washington."

Pressed several times about specific topics, Carney said, "I'm going to ask you to bear with us and wait to see what the president says."

Asked whether the speech would be optimistic and if Obama believes the country is moving in the right direction, Carney said: "He believes the country is poised to grow stronger, to create more jobs and in doing so to create more opportunity for middle class Americans who have been squeezed fiercely for a long time now."

Two survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings were invited by first lady Michelle Obama to attend the State of the Union speech, the White House said Monday.

Mrs. Obama invited Jeff Bauman and Carlos Arredondo, along with the fire chief of Moore, Okla, which was devastated by a tornado, an openly gay NBA player and others to sit with her and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and Valerie Jarrett, senior presidential adviser, at the president's speech Tuesday, officials said.

Bauman lost his legs and Arredondo came to his aid in the April 15, 2013, bombings that killed three people and injured more than 250.

The White House said Fire Chief Gary Bird represents all of the people who rallied to help Moore after a tornado flattened the community, killing 25 people.

Jason Collins, a 12-year NBA veteran, became the first male player on a major U.S. sports team to come out openly as gay.

Also invited was Joey Hudy of Anthem, Ariz., who at age 14, attended the 2012 White House Science Fair and President Obama fired the boy's "extreme marshmallow cannon," launching a marshmallow across the East Room. Hudy, 16, became Intel's youngest intern when he began an internship with the company this year.

Another invited guest is Kathy Hollowell-Makle, who was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year in the District of Columbia Public Schools. She began as a Teach for America corps member in the district in 1998 and now teaches at Abram Simon Elementary in southeast Washington.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., called talk about Obama using his executive authority a "a threat" in an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union."

"It sounds vaguely like a threat," Paul said. "And I think it also has a certain amount of arrogance in the sense that one of the fundamental principles of our country are the checks and balances, that it wasn't supposed to be easy to pass legislation. You had to debate and convince people."

Presidents since George Washington have issued executive orders. Woodrow Wilson had the most, with 1,803. President George W. Bush issued 291. So far, Obama has issued 167.

Paul and other Republican lawmakers said Sunday they would work with the White House on narrow issues in which Republicans and Democrats agree.

Paul said Republicans would be happy to move forward on parts of an immigration overhaul if Democrats changed from demanding what he characterized as an all-or-nothing approach.

"On immigration, maybe half of immigration reform, 80 percent of Congress agrees to," Paul said.

"But to my mind, the Democrats are saying they want everything -- citizenship, everything they can get -- all at once, or nothing, whereas I think there's an in-between where we could find work visas for a lot of the people that are here and normalize their existence, as long as ... it's dependent on border security," he said.

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