- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2015

Setting an adversarial tone for his relations with the Republican majorities in Congress, President Obama has no definite plans to meet with GOP leaders, vows to escalate his executive actions and is leaving Washington this week to promote his agenda just as Congress is sworn in.

Mr. Obama will be hitting the road as the Republican-led Senate begins work on a bill calling for completion of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the administration has delayed amid objections from environmentalists. The president will travel Wednesday to Michigan to talk about the recovering automotive industry, as he lays the groundwork for his State of the Union speech to Congress on Jan. 20.

Along the way, aides say, Mr. Obama will outline several more executive actions that he intends to take, another signal that the president envisions even fewer legislative achievements with Congress than last year.

“He wants to make progress by debating and putting in place, where possible, substantive economic policy ideas that will benefit the middle class,” said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. “Some of those, he can do on his own, and he’s going do it. Some of those [will] require cooperation with Republicans in Congress to get it done, and he’s eager to do that, too.”

While the White House said Mr. Obama wants to work with Republicans, the president hasn’t scheduled any meetings with House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The Republican National Committee criticized Mr. Obama on Monday for “the same go-it-alone attitude from a White House that seems intent on ignoring the message voters sent loud and clear in the midterm elections.”

“Why is President Obama plotting to circumvent the new Congress before it’s even sworn in even as Americans overwhelmingly want Washington, DC to get work done to help the American people?” the RNC said.

The White House also took a swipe at incoming House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who has apologized for speaking to a white supremacist group in 2002 organized by former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. Mr. Earnest questioned whether the selection of Mr. Scalise matched the promise of Republican leaders to broaden their party’s appeal to minority groups.

“There is no arguing that who Republicans decide to elevate into a leadership position says a lot about what the conference’s priorities and values are,” Mr. Earnest said. “Mr. Scalise reportedly described himself as David Duke without the baggage. So, it’ll be up to Republicans to decide what that says about their conference.”

Mr. McConnell and other Republican lawmakers have said they want to work with the president on trade, investment in infrastructure and tax reform. The White House said those areas are ripe for compromise.

“These are all areas where there does stand the potential for bipartisan agreement, and the president’s certainly going to pursue them,” Mr. Earnest said.

From Michigan on Wednesday, Mr. Obama will fly to Phoenix, where he will give a speech Thursday about the housing industry. The president will hold an education event in Knoxville, Tennessee, on Friday.

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