- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 18, 2014

Again promising to act on his own wherever and whenever he can, President Obama on Saturday said the U.S. is on the cusp of an economic breakthrough, but accused Republicans of standing in the way.

“We are primed to bring back more of the good jobs claimed by the recession and lost to overseas competition in recent decades. But that requires a year of action,” Mr. Obama said in his weekly address. “And I want to work with Congress this year on proven ways to create jobs, like building infrastructure and fixing our broken immigration system. When Congress isn’t acting, I’ll act on my own to put opportunity within reach for anyone who’s willing to work for it.”

The so-called “year of action” has become Mr. Obama’s central theme in recent weeks as he has pledged to use his executive authority as often as possible to affect change. Already this year he’s used his own power to put in place new gun restrictions, to spur changes in higher education and in other areas.

Earlier this week, he took executive action to establish a new technology hub in Raleigh, N.C., where government resources, leading universities and private companies will come together to research and eventually build a new, more efficient form of semiconductor.

But Republicans are pushing back against the president’s strategy of circumventing Congress.

On a broader issue, they’re blaming Democrats for wanting to treat only the symptoms — low wages and expired benefits for the long-term unemployed — rather than the true problem of a weak, sluggish economy.

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“They seem to have surrendered to a new normal of high unemployment. Instead of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with out-of-work Americans, they’re focused on making it easier to live without a job,” said Rep. Marlin Stutzman, Indiana Republican, in his party’s weekly address. “They’re focused on bigger government and less opportunity. More debt and fewer jobs.”

He added that if the president truly wants to make this year a “year of action,” he should encourage Senate Democrats to vote on GOP-backed jobs bills that already have cleared the House.

While Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over those jobs bills and other pieces of legislation, there has been at least some bipartisan progress in recent weeks.

On Friday, Mr. Obama signed into law a $1.1 trillion spending plan negotiated by leaders from both parties. The agreement didn’t tackle serious challenges such as tax or entitlement reform, but the president believes it was a solid first step to break Washington gridlock.

“I firmly believe that this can be a breakthrough year for Americans,” Mr. Obama said. “But to make that happen, we’re going to have to act — to create good jobs that pay good wages and to offer more Americans a fair shot to get ahead. That’s what I’m focused on every day I have the privilege of serving as your president.”

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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