President Obama met with members of the Senate Democratic caucus on Wednesday and pledged to work with them on a range of issues, but added that he would use his executive authority if Congress failed to act.
The two-hour meeting at the White House comes as Obama is looking to rally Democratic support for a number of initiatives and jumpstart his second-term agenda, which stalled during a difficult 2013.
Complicating the president’s efforts are Democratic unease over the botched rollout of the Obamacare health insurance exchanges and a slowly recovering economy, which have his party’s lawmakers worried about the fallout for November’s midterm elections.
“The group discussed their shared goals for 2014, and the president expressed his desire to continue to work together to advance a number of our priorities for the year to strengthen our economy, create jobs and build the middle class,” said the White House in a statement.
“The president has declared 2014 a year of action, and while he will continue to use his executive authority — his pen and phone — to get things done, he will also work with Congress to make progress on behalf of the American people,” the statement continued.
After failing to achieve his agenda on a host of issues last year, including immigration reform, gun control, climate change and economic initiatives, Obama has vowed to use executive actions to reach his goals.
“I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone,” Obama told reporters on Tuesday as he met with his Cabinet, vowing that he would not wait for Congress to act on the issues important to him.
The White House on Wednesday said Obama discussed a number of issues with Senate Democrats, “including increasing the minimum wage so those Americans working hard can have a living wage, passing common-sense immigration reform, strengthening education and promoting a number of other jobs and growth measures.”
The meeting comes ahead of Obama’s State of the Union address on Jan. 28. The president has pledged that addressing income inequality will be a centerpiece of his second-term agenda.
Lawmakers though remain split on legislation to extend unemployment insurance, which expired in December, despite Obama’s calls for them to quickly pass legislation.
Senators rejected a measure on Tuesday for a three-month extension of jobless benefits and in the House, Republican lawmakers are divided over whether to offset the cost with other cuts to the budget.
In an address in Raleigh, N.C. earlier Wednesday, where he announced new manufacturing initiatives, Obama called on lawmakers to “do the right thing” and approve benefits for the 1.4 million unemployed affected.
Obama’s call for a host of economic initiatives, though, will likely face staunch opposition in the GOP-controlled House.
The president is also looking to stave off a Senate vote on a new Iran sanctions bill, which Obama warns could wreck a fragile diplomatic accord with Tehran.
Obama has urged Congress to give him more time to negotiate a final nuclear deal with Iran but Senate aides told the Washington Examiner last week that a new sanctions bill drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. is nearing veto-proof majority support.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said he would “wait and see” before committing to a floor vote on the bill.
Obama on Friday will also announce his review of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
The president is reviewing the recommendations from an outside group which wants new limits on the agency’s monitoring and collection of phone and internet data.