When he stands before lawmakers Tuesday night for his State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama will have a message for the divided Congress that has largely stymied his agenda for the past three years: Fine, I'll go it alone.
"I've got a pen," Obama has said in the weeks leading up to the speech, "and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions and administrative actions that move the ball forward."
Many of Obama's big policy goals have ended up stranded in limbo between the Democratic-controlled Senate trying to advance his agenda and the Republican-led House bent on stopping him.
And, heading into a midterm election year, he faces lame-duck status unless his party can regain control of the House this November.
Frustrated with the Capitol Hill quagmire, the president is increasingly turning toward the power of the presidency to try to solidify his legacy. Obama has pledged to act, saying, "We are not just going to be waiting for legislation in order to make sure that we're providing Americans the kind of help that they need."
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"The president sees this as a year of action, to work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary," White House press secretary Jay Carney told ABC News Sunday.
This rhetoric is not new for Obama. He said last June that climate change is "a challenge that does not pause for partisan gridlock. It demands our attention now."
The president has also warned that he "has a phone," to rally the county around his ideas and entice businesses and non-profit organizations to help shift the political winds.
Here are three areas where President Obama can act on his own or at least can operate with a great degree of leeway
Now that Senate Democrats have eliminated filibusters for nominations other than to the Supreme Court, the way is clear for Obama to fill vacancies in executive branch agencies and especially to life-tenured posts on the federal appeals courts.
Nominees can now be confirmed by a simple majority vote. Democrats have 55 votes in the Senate, which allows Democrats in conservative states or who face tough re-election races in 2014 to not vote with Obama on his contentious nominees.
Last month, three red-state Democrats, including Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas who's up for re-election this fall, voted against Obama appeals court nominee Nina Pillard, who'd made controversial comments critical of anti-abortion protesters.
There are now 16 vacancies on the federal appeals courts around the country. So far Obama has sent nine nominees to the Senate for these open posts.
Thanks to the abolition of the filibuster in the case of most nominees, Democratic-appointed judges now dominate the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit which handles many EPA and other regulatory cases. Obama and Bill Clinton have appointed seven of that court's 11 active judges.
Executive orders and directive
Based on what Obama and his aides have said in the run-up to the State of the Union, it's likely that he will seek to test the limits of what he can do through executive orders and directives to federal agencies.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul discusses cooperation between political parties.
An example of one Obama directive done by presidential memorandum: last June he directed the Interior Department to approve enough renewable energy capacity on federal lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020.