The president is making it clear how he wants to spend this year and the next two — working on issues like inequality, mobility, wages and jobs. But Congress hasn’t been in a partnering mood the last five years, and there’s not much he can do by himself.
The administration has been able to make substantial headway toward its environmental and energy goals without going through Congress, such as stringent new fuel standards worked out with the 13 major auto companies. Obama also announced 23 executive actions to reduce gun violence after the Newtown shootings, and two more just this month.
His options are far more limited on economic and safety-net issues, a problem I explore in a piece today in The Daily Beast. It’s going to be a tough, uncertain slog, but as White House economic adviser Jason Furman put it, Obama does not intend to devote the rest of his presidency to simply making the Obamacare website “better and better and better and better until it’s just the best thing in the history of humanity.” In his words: “There’s a lot of other things we want to do.”