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Politics & Policy

Obama’s Chief of Staff Promises ‘Audacious Executive Action’ in Final Year

Denis McDonough (Michael Bonfigli/Christian Science Monitor)

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough pushed back against the notion his president is played out in the wake of his last State of the Union address, promising “audacious executive action” in Barack Obama’s final year in office.

During a breakfast with reporters in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, McDonough responded to the observation that the president’s final speech before Congress lacked the usual pledge to “go it alone” if lawmakers failed to act. Coupled with the feeble executive actions on gun control announced earlier this month, had President Obama rethought the utility of acting unilaterally on issues important to the White House?

“We’ll do audacious executive action over the course of the rest of the year, I’m confident of that,” said McDonough, explaining that President Obama’s decision not to outline specific executive actions was more about a commitment to process than a lack of willpower.

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“Process is your friend, but process also dictates what you can do,” McDonough said. “And we do want to make sure that the executive actions we undertake are not left hanging out there, subject to Congress undoing them.”

In addition to gun control, the White House has expressed interest in further unilateral actions on immigration reform, and in working around Congress to close the prison in Guantanamo Bay. But McDonough said the White House is considering executive action on any and all issues, and that the main question President Obama plans to ask himself is “Why not?”

“And so that’s the spirit through which we’ll approach this last year,” McDonough said.

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