President Obama’s State of the Union Address faces a Congress frozen in partisan gridlock while his own popularity has taken a hit over the past year. What chance he will be able to get anything done over the next twelve months?
Last year, Obama watched helpless as his legislative agenda stalled in Congress. His plans for immigration reform and a bill to expand background checks for gun buyers got nowhere.
Though Congress has recently announced deals on a new budget and a farm bill, and talk of immigration reform has picked up again, the chance of Republicans becoming willing partners with the president is remote. Facing this reality, Obama’s State of the Union will stress that if Congress refuses to act he is willing to enact his agenda through executive actions.
For a president to govern through executive action is often controversial, but on priorities like income inequality to climate change, Obama is unlikely to make progress unless he flexes all the powers of his office.
"I’ve got a pen, and I’ve got a phone. And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward," Obama told reporters earlier this month. “I’ve got a phone 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.”
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