Is President Obama finally testing his administration’s muscle? On Wednesday, Obama directed several federal agencies to identify “high-impact, job-creating infrastructure projects” that can be expedited by administrative directive without congressional involvement or approval.
One week before he will make a major address to Congress on jobs, Obama is making sure they know he plans to move forward without them. The president has also directed the Education Department to come up with a “Plan B” updating the 2001 No Child Left Behind law in the absence of congressional action. The message to Congress is clear: Do your work or we’ll do it for you.
Under Wednesday’s order, the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, and Transportation will each select up to three high-priority infrastructure projects that can be completed within the control and jurisdiction of the federal government.
The effort is labeled as a “common-sense approach” to spurring job growth “in the near term.” In practical terms, that means speeding up the permitting and waiver processes for green-building or highway projects to get the government out of the way. One of businesses’ foremost complaints with government infrastructure projects is that the paperwork is too cumbersome and creates unnecessary delays, according to White House economic advisers.
What is left unsaid in the administration’s rollout of the infrastructure project is that this may be the extent of the president’s powers while Congress embroils itself in months-long talks on cutting the deficit and responding to the White House’s jobs plan. Obama also pleaded with Congress on Wednesday to pass clean extensions of the Federal Aviation Administration and the surface-transportation laws, both of which expire this month.