How Obama Can Push Through the Gridlock

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country we bring you the unmissable quotes from political conversations on WNYC. On today's Brian Lehrer Show, Sarah R. Wartell, executive vice president at the Center for American Progress, talks about what President Obama can do to advance a progressive agenda without the help of Congress. 

So, the new GOP-controlled House may not be amenable to Obama's agenda. The Center for American Progress wants the president to remember he has another tool to get 'er done: the executive order. In a new report, the progressive think tank lays out a long list of proposals for job creation, clean energy, the housing market, and health care.

For example, Wartell says the Obama administration can look to the military to jumpstart the country's renewable energy sector.

The United States Air Force has airplane hangers around the country which are a perfect place to put solar arrays. And if we create that kind of demand for solar technologies here in the United States it can allow us to become more efficient, more effective at producing them and make our products more competitive, so there's lots that the President can do with the powers of the federal government to help create jobs and move the country forward.

Wartell says Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both effectively used their executive powers to get things done while dealing with a divided Congress. Though she says she's not suggesting the president make the same decisions as former President Bush, she says he can use the same kind of authority.

He [President Obama] needs to look at the authorities that exist in the executive branch to send a signal about the direction that we want to move the country on. So much of our focus has been on the stalemate in Congress. I think if people saw things getting done, the administration's standing with the public would rise as well.

The limits of the executive branch are evident and important, Wartell says, but within the president's authority there is still a wide and useful range of policy discretion he can use.