In a bid to revive his administration, President Obama is poised to bypass Republicans in Congress if they continue to block his initiatives, and he is starting to provide some of the details.
"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," Obama told reporters. "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 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 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."
On Thursday, he plans to convene college presidents at the White House to discuss ways to improve educational opportunity and individuals' job skills without having to pass more legislation. Later in January, he is scheduled to convene business leaders to encourage hiring the long-term unemployed.
On Wednesday, he will call attention to his economic ideas by visiting what White House aides call an innovative manufacturing facility in North Carolina. Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser, said in an email to reporters and Obama supporters that Obama will "announce a new public-private effort to boost advanced manufacturing that attracts the kind of well-paying jobs that sustain a growing middle class."
Obama and his aides say he still hopes Congress will pass a bill overhauling the immigration system to give millions of people who entered the United States illegally a path to citizenship or legal residency. But beyond that, he appears to have little hope that the Republican-controlled House will go along with his agenda, which includes strengthening gun control, limiting climate change, spending more on infrastructure, and increasing taxes on the rich and big corporations.
His remarks Tuesday amounted to a preview of his State of the Union address Jan. 28.
"Overall, the message to my Cabinet, and that will be amplified in our State of the Union, is that we need all hands on deck to build on the recovery that we're already seeing," Obama said. "The economy is improving but it's in need of improving even faster."
Much of Obama's agenda is stalled on Capitol Hill, and many Americans have soured on his presidency. More than half of the voters disapprove of his job performance, according to recent polls.
Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook and Twitter.