By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON Jan 14 President Barack Obama said
on Tuesday he would not wait for Congress to pass legislation to
advance his policy priorities this year and said he was "getting
close" to finishing a review of U.S. surveillance practices - to
be unveiled on Friday.
Obama, speaking to reporters during a cabinet meeting at the
White House, foreshadowed his upcoming State of the Union
address and what appeared to be a new messaging strategy by
emphasizing his ability to take executive actions without
approval from lawmakers.
"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," he said.
"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
I've got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every
walk of life," he said.
Obama began last year with high hopes of making progress on
gun control, immigration reform, and other issues after giving
an inaugural address that rallied his base and set an aggressive
tone for his second term.
But the year concluded with few legislative achievements.
His gun control efforts largely failed and an immigration reform
bill passed in the Senate but stalled in the House of
White House officials, while referring to 2014 as a "year of
action," have already played down the prospect of getting a lot
of laws passed and told reporters that they would not measure
the year's success by the administration's list of legislative
Obama again listed immigration reform as a priority for the
year. He will need Congress to turn his goals on that issue into
law. The president also emphasized his goal of getting the U.S.
economy to recover faster.
"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. The economy is
improving, but it could be improving even faster," Obama said.
"And I am absolutely confident that in 2014, if we're all
working in the same direction and not worrying so much about
political points but worrying much more about getting the job
done, that we can see a lot of improvement this year," he said.
Republican speaker of the House John Boehner, whose support
Obama will need for the administration's legislative priorities,
said the president had lost focus on the economy.
"If the president's serious about wanting to improve the
prospects for our economy - and higher wages and better jobs -
all he has to do is pick up the phone and call Democrat leaders
in the Senate and ask them to move one of these dozens of bills
that we've sent over there that would help put Americans back to
work," Boehner said.
On a separate issue, Obama is scheduled to make a speech on
Friday outlining his decisions on how to reform controversial
surveillance activities by the National Security Agency that
were made public through revelations by former U.S. contractor
Asked if he had finished his NSA review, Obama said: "It's