In his fifth State of the Union address, President Obama covered the usual bases—Iran, gun violence, health care, etc—but more importantly, he emphasized that he will act unilaterally if Congress refuses to agree on certain issues, like raising the minimum wage for federal contractors. "America does not stand still," Obama said, "and neither will I."
"So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do." he said, adding, "when our differences shut down government or threaten the full faith and credit of the United States — then we are not doing right by the American people."
Obama's plan to rely more heavily on executive order will work for some issues, like raising the federal minimum wage and creating a government-backed private savings plan, but it won't do much for other important issues, like raising the minimum wage for non-federal workers or immigration reform.
Republicans, naturally, slammed the president's plans to use executive power. "Circumventing Congress won't foster job creation and won't result in economic growth," said Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, according to the New York Times.
And in the official Republican response to the speech, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers criticized President Obama's approach to the economy, saying he's done little, if anything, to create job growth. "Last month, more Americans stopped looking for a job than found one," McMorris Rodgers said. "Too many people are falling further and further behind because, right now, the president's policies are making people's lives harder."
Democrats were, of course, more supportive of the president's plan. From the New York Times:
"Should he have to wait because of the intransigence, the obstacles that are placed by Republicans or because the Republicans would prefer to shut down our government?" asked Representative Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California.
Representative Joseph Crowley, Democrat of New York, conceded that governance by executive order is not ideal but was justifiable given the depth of Republican opposition.
"This is not a panacea, this is not the fix we are looking for," he said of the president's action on wages. "But he is leading by example, sending a message to Congress that we need to raise the minimum wage for all Americans."
[Image via AP]