President Barack Obama will serve notice in his State of the Union address he intends to bypass Congress whenever necessary to regain initiative after a year of debilitating legislative logjams, aides said today
"I think what we saw last year in 2013 was a Washington that did not deliver for the American people," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in an interview with ABC's "This Week."
"And 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," he said.
Obama's speech before Congress Tuesday evening might be his last chance to reclaim political momentum before midterm elections, after a disastrous year locked in battle with a recalcitrant Congress, and struggling with the bungled launch of his signature health care reforms.
A new Washington Post/ABC poll published today found that the president's approval ratings now stand at 46 per cent, up from a low of 42 per cent in November but still lower than at the start of any previous year of his five-year-old presidency.
Only 37 per cent of those polled said they had either a good amount or a great deal of confidence in Obama's decision-making, and 63 per cent said they did not.
In Sunday talk shows, the president's aides attributed the setbacks to the failure of legislative initiatives to make it through the Congress, where Republicans control the House.
"I think the way we have to think about this year is we have a divided government," said White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer on "Fox News today."
"The Republican Congress is not going to rubber-stamp the president's agenda. So we have to find areas where we can work together and extend unemployment benefits for 1.6 million Americans. Pass the farm bill, pass immigration reform, infrastructure.
"But also the president will say to the country he's not going to wait. He's going to have the pen and he's going to use those to move the ball forward to create opportunity."
Republican Senator Rand Paul, a conservative libertarian, said the White House vow to bypass Congress when necessary "sounds vaguely like a threat."
"He says, oh, well, it's hard to get Congress to do anything. Well, yeah, welcome to the real world.
"It's hard to convince people to get legislation through. It takes consensus. But that's what he needs to be doing, is building consensus and not taking his pen and creating law.