Going into his second term, President Obama is facing a dilemma. On the one hand, he still wants to pursue an ambitious liberal legislative agenda. On the other hand, he knows that as long as Republicans have control of the House and 45 seats in the Senate, he won’t be able to enact it. In his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, he responded by laying the groundwork to bypass Congress in his second term.

To be sure, Obama did outline an ambitious legislative agenda. He called for comprehensive immigration reform, gun control and a $9 minimum wage. He proposed universal pre-school, more infrastructure spending and backed a bill that would encourage mortgage refinancing. He also described a centralized industrial policy for manufacturing and energy. He couched all of this in bipartisan sounding rhetoric about “reasonable compromise” and putting “the nation’s interests before party.” But on multiple occasions, these proposals were accompanied by vows to take executive action.

For instance, he proposed the creation of 18 more “manufacturing innovation institutes,” but said he was launching three of them through the Departments of Defense and Energy. More significantly, Obama addressed global warming, urging “Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change,” before warning, “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. 

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