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Rand Paul, GOP Blast Obama's Plan to Use Executive Action

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Sunday, 26 Jan 2014 11:29 AM

President Barack Obama plans to use executive authority to make good on pledges he will outline in his State of the Union speech this week, an approach that has already drawn criticism from congressional Republicans.

“The president sees this as the 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,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program today.

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After failing to win congressional support last year for priorities such as revised immigration laws, raising the minimum wage and gun background checks, administration officials used today’s talk shows to signal a backup strategy of executive action, even as a new Washington Post-ABC News poll showed 63 percent of Americans lack confidence in Obama’s ability to make the right decisions for the country’s future.

“We need to show the American people that we can get something done, whether together or on our own,” said White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

The strategy risked antagonizing Republicans even before Obama gets his chance Jan. 28 to make the case for his legislative agenda in a prime-time televised address.

“It sounds vaguely like a threat and has a certain amount of arrogance,” said Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who draws support from the small-government Tea Party faction, in an interview on the CNN program.

‘Real World’

Paul said Obama’s complaints about congressional gridlock were misplaced. “Well, welcome to the real world. It’s hard to get legislation passed,” he said.

The partisan rhetoric was tempered by predictions that it may be possible to reach some bipartisan deals this year.

Paul said there may be cross-party support for tax changes to encourage U.S. companies to bring profits home from overseas. He said he asked Obama to consider taxing overseas profits at 5 percent, with the revenue going to infrastructure.

Carney said the White House is “actually optimistic” about getting an immigration package to the president this year.

Obama’s address will likely frame much of the debate for the November mid-term elections that will determine political control of Congress for his final two years in office.

Republicans won the House majority in the 2010 elections, and since then have battled with Obama and the Democratic- controlled Senate over an array of issues, including government spending and raising the nation’s debt limit.

Sidestepping Congress

With nonpartisan political analysts favoring Republicans to retain their House majority, Obama last week made clear he plans to look for opportunities to sidestep Congress in pursuing his agenda.

“Where Congress is debating things and hasn’t been able to pull the trigger on stuff, my administration is going to move forward,” he said Jan. 23 at the White House.

Pfeiffer reiterated that strategy in an e-mail released by the White House yesterday, saying that while the president “will seek out as many opportunities as possible to work with Congress in a bipartisan way,” Obama “will not wait for” lawmakers to act on some of his goals.

The president “has a pen and he has a phone, and he will use them to take executive action and enlist every American -- business owners and workers, mayors and state legislators, young people, veterans, and folks in communities from across the country -- in the project to restore opportunity for all,” Pfeiffer said.

Office Authority

Obama already has used the authority of his office to carry out promises he made in last year’s speech to the nation.

This month alone, Obama announced a manufacturing hub for North Carolina, designated enterprise zones in five cities struggling with unemployment and released a list of recommendations to streamline Election Day voting.

All three were promises from his 2013 speech.

In the speech, the president will continue to push for congressional action to raise the minimum wage, provide universal pre-kindergarten programs and enact some of the changes he’s proposed to limit National Security Agency surveillance. His main theme, according to White House briefings, will be on the economy and narrowing income inequality, which he has called the “defining challenge of our time.”

“You can expect him to be consistent with where he’s been in terms of describing his priorities,” Carney said of the speech, set for 9 p.m. Washington time Jan. 28 to a joint meeting of Congress.

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