House Speaker John Boehner on Thursday warned President Barack Obama about carrying out his threat to implement his jobs agenda by executive action, reminding the president that he must also respect Congress and the Constitution in the process.
"Instead of looking to work together, the president this week reminded people that he has 'a pen and a phone,'" the Ohio Republican said at his weekly press briefing at the Capitol. "I would remind the president he also has a Constitution and an oath of office that he took where he swore to faithfully execute the laws of our country.
"We have a system of government here and a system of laws, and a Constitution that we're all required to abide by," Boehner added. "No reason that this year can't be a bipartisan year to work on the issue of our economy and get Americans back to work."
In vowing a "year of action" on jobs, Obama declared on Tuesday that he would use executive action to bring about programs that would put the nation's unemployed back to work.
"We're not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we're providing Americans the kind of help they need," Obama said in convening his first Cabinet meeting of the year. He said he would instruct his department heads to "use all the tools available to us" to assist the middle class.
"I've got a pen and … I've got a phone," the president insisted.
"And I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward."
He reiterated that position in a speech the next day in announcing a $140 million manufacturing initiative in North Carolina.
"The challenge of making sure everyone who works hard can get ahead in today's economy is so important that we can't wait for Congress to solve it," Obama said at North Carolina State University, the News & Observer
in Raleigh reports. "Where I can act, on my own without Congress, I'm going to do so. And today I'm here to act."
As part of his jobs agenda, Obama met on Thursday with college presidents to discuss ways to improve workers' skills — and he will be convening CEOs at the White House later this month to lay out plans for hiring the long-term unemployed.
The president delivers his State of the Union address later this month.
At the press briefing, Boehner also called on Obama to work to get Trade Promotion Authority passed in Congress this year.
"If the president means what he says about Trade Promotion Authority, I think it's time for him to pull out all the stops," he said. "Now after five years in office, we know how the president can be when he's serious about something. He hits the road, uses his bully pulpit, and he takes his case to the American people.
"So if the president is serious in his commitment to getting this important bipartisan legislation passed, he'll do the same on this issue," the speaker added. "And we're hopeful that we can pass that bill this year.”
Under the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority legislation, the White House would be able to put international trade agreements before Congress for an up or down vote without amendments.
The legislation is considered crucial
to enacting trade deals and could pave the way for major agreements with Pacific Rim and European trading partners.
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