President Obama on Thursday rejected suggestions that he had scaled back his agenda after running into opposition from Congressional Republicans, saying that many of the policies he pushed for had already been passed.
In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, Obama was asked about his past rhetoric promising to change the way Washington worked and offering lofty goals.
“Do you think you were naive back then or have you recalibrated your expectations and your ambitions,” Tapper asked the president.
“Well, part of it is we got a lot of that stuff done, ” responded Obama, in his first interview after Tuesday night's State of the Union address.
“Part of what’s happened is that checklist that I had when I came into office — we have passed a lot of that and we’re implementing a lot of that,” he continued.
Obama cited his signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act.
“We got in this country a health care reform that has already signed up millions of people and make sure that everybody who is watching anybody who already has insurance will not be dropped because of a preexisting condition and if they don't have health insurance they can get it on healthcare.gov,” the president said.
The botched rollout of the law's new insurance exchanges last year, though, brought Obama to his lowest approval ratings and weakened support for the health care reforms. The president though has defended Obamacare, saying that Americans will appreciate it as they begin to enjoy its benefits.
Obama also said that he had made “enormous strides on the education front,” citing changes to student loan programs he said made higher education more accessible.
Obama has sought to jumpstart his agenda after a disastrous 2013 that saw many of his priorities stumble in Congress and his poll numbers plummet after the troubled Obamacare launch.
The president is on a two-day, four-state swing to tout new economic policies he says will help bolster the middle class. Obama has said that while he is willing to work with Congress, he will use executive actions when lawmakers fail to act.
On Wednesday, he signed an order creating new “MyRA” retirement accounts and has said he will sign an action raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10.
The president said he is only acting where lawmakers have stalled.
“We’ve taken some administrative actions, so on climate change which has to be a top priority for all of us we are going to make sure that one of the biggest sources of the pollutants that are causing climate change are regulated by regulations on existing power plants,” said Obama. “That’s a big piece of business.
“In no way are my expectations diminished or my ambitions diminished but what is obviously true is we’ve got divided government right now,” he said pointing the finger at the House GOP for Washington gridlock.
“The House Republicans in particular have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine; and in that kind of environment what I don’t want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation,” he continued.
Obama insisted he has not given up on working with Congress.
“There are going to be some issues where it is going to be tough to move forward,” he acknowledged, but added, “I’m going to continue to reach out to them.”
Obama though added that he “cannot wait” and “the American people cannot wait.”
This story was published at 4:52 p.m. and has been updated.