The White House this weekend recapped how it has skirted a defiant Congress on climate change, fuel efficiency and a host of other issues so far this year.
President Obama touted his efforts to circumvent Congress during his "Year of Action" in his weekly address Saturday, and the White House issued a new report detailing its actions so far and top administration officials bragged about their efforts during a press call last week.
"In my State of the Union Address, I said that in this year of action, whenever I can act on my own to create jobs and expand opportunity for more Americans, I will," Obama said in his weekly speech. "And since January, I've taken more than 20 executive actions to do just that."
That includes launching a new website to make climate change data more accessible; directing U.S. EPA and the Transportation Department to develop the next phase of fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for trucks; adding public lands to the California Coastal National Monument; and launching new regional "hubs" to prepare farmers for the effects of climate change.
The administration also touted the national network of manufacturing institutes aimed at catalyzing new research; an executive order boosting the minimum wage for federal contractors; and its strategy to slash methane emissions.
Asked Friday about whether the administration would sacrifice the economic benefits of the country's national gas boom to mitigate environmental concerns, one of Obama's top environmental aides said they wouldn't have to.
"I think the president has recognized that natural gas has an important role to play, both in powering our economy and also helping provide a cleaner environment for Americans," said Dan Utech, special adviser to Obama on energy and climate.
He pointed to the methane strategy released earlier this year. "I think that's a good example of where those two objectives go hand in hand, where we're taking steps to reduce methane emissions from production and transport of natural gas -- at the same time we recognize that capturing that gas allows it to be reused ... to provide electricity and to heat our homes," he said.
Obama reprimanded congressional Republicans in his speech Saturday. "We could do a lot more if Republicans in Congress were less interested in stacking the deck in favor of those at the top and more interested in growing the economy for everybody," he said, criticizing GOP lawmakers for spearheading more than 50 votes to dismantle his signature health care law. "That's why I'm going to take action on my own wherever I can," Obama said.
Dan Pfeiffer, Obama's senior adviser, said Friday that Obama would work with Congress when he can, "But he's not going to wait for it. So whether it's with his pen or his phone, the president's been driving his agenda forward."
And there's more where that came from, he said.
"This doesn't stop just because we're a few months into the year. We're going to keep going all the way to the end, because the president has instructed us to every day look for ways to try and advance his agenda in ways big and small."
Congressional Republicans have bristled at the White House's go-it-alone rhetoric, calling on Obama and other members of his party to try harder to find common ground with the GOP.
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