Obama said he wants to work with Congress where possible, "but if Congress is unable to do it," then he said his Cabinet officials and agency heads should look for areas where executive actions can "show some real progress."
"The people who sent us here, they just don't feel as if anybody is fighting for them or working them. We're not always going to be able to get things through Congress ... but we sure as heck can make sure that the folks back home know that we are pushing their agenda and that we're working hard on their behalf," Obama said.
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Obama's comments amounted to a recognition he is unlikely to get substantial legislation through Congress this year ahead of congressional elections in November elections.
Republicans are in no mood to compromise ahead of elections in which they could take control of the Senate from the Democrats and build on their majority in the House of Representatives.
Obama on Monday said House Speaker John Boehner had told him last week the House would not vote on immigration legislation this year.
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Obama, who has pushed for the immigration overhaul, said his advisers would give recommendations to him by the end of the summer on what he can do administratively on the issue.
The president this year has raised the minimum wage for federal contract workers and taken other steps through executive order, but he is limited on how far he can go without actual legislation.