Senior White House advisers have laid out the key themes of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night — income inequality, job growth, and helping the long-term unemployed in a still-stagnating economy.
But perhaps the most important part of Obama’s speech will be a more forceful outline than ever of how he plans to address those and other items on his agenda. He will say how he plans to get things done himself if Congress won’t work with him — through executive action, or, as he and his advisers like to put it, through a “pen and a phone.”
For the White House, it’s a “year of action.”
“When American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, he will not wait for Congress,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer wrote in an email to Obama supporters Saturday.
On ABC’s “This Week,” White House press secretary Jay Carney added: “The president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary to lift folks who want to come up into the middle class.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that some areas in which Obama will look to take “unilateral action” include infrastructure development, job training, climate change, and education. Expect him to outline which goals he on which he will look to work with Congress, and which goals he will look to tackle with or without Congressional support.
Obama will attempt to frame the debate in terms of the proverbial “Washington” finally getting something done. It comes after a year during which many White House-backed initiatives that were popular with the public — background checks on gun purchases, immigration reform, and a minimum-wage increase, among others — stalled in one or both houses of Congress.
“We need to show the American people that we can get something done — either through Congress or on our own,” Pfeiffer said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.
The speech comes at a pivotal moment in the Obama presidency. If he is to brush off a tumultuous 2013 and move forward in 2014, he has a short window to do that. Congress already has to deal with passing a farm bill and a debt-limit extension over the next few months, and it’s likely that nothing of big consequence will pass close to the midterm elections.
Meanwhile, personally, Obama is facing some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency — and certainly the lowest leading up to a State of the Union speech.
In a new Washington Post-ABC poll, Obama’s approval rating sits at just 46%, down from mid-to-high 50s levels before last year’s address. But there’s one key question that signals his new approach could be politically favourable for him.
According to the poll, 52% said they supported the president “in some cases to bypass Congress and take action by executive order to accomplish their administration’s goals.” Only 46% opposed.
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