“We Can’t Wait”

August 14th, 2014

Since the Democrats lost the House in 2010, and the filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, President Obama’s ability to pursue legislative changes has ground to a halt. Headline after headline blares that the “Do Nothing Congress,” mired in gridlock, has enacted the fewest laws in decades. Yet, this gridlock has not stopped the President from taking executive action, armed with his “pen and phone,” and declaring that “We Can’t Wait.” Charlie Savage reported in the New York Times that “We Can’t Wait” is a “slogan that aides said Mr. Obama coined at that strategy meeting” to “more aggressively use executive power to govern in the face of Congressional obstructionism.” “We Can’t Wait” has become a platform to explain how executive action can be taken, where Congress will not legislate.

On WhiteHouse.gov, on a page titled “We Can’t Wait” listing all of the President’s executive actions “to support middle class Americans,” the headline reads “President Obama is not letting congressional gridlock slow our economic growth.”

We Can t Wait   The White House


The President has repeated this message at least a dozen times (by my count) to justify taking executive action where Congress won’t act:

  1. Press Release, The White House,Remarks by the President on the Economy and Housing, (Oct. 24, 2011, 2:15 PM), available athttp://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/10/24/remarks-president-economy-and-housing (“So I’m here to say to all of you — and to say to the people of Nevada and the people of Las Vegas — we can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job.  Where they won’t act, I will. In recent weeks, we decided to stop waiting for Congress to fix No Child Left Behind, and decided to give states the flexibility they need to help our children meet higher standards.”);
  2. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President at a Campaign Event, (Oct. 25, 2011, 7:36 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/10/25/remarks-president-campaign-event-1 (“And so we’re going to keep on putting pressure on them, but in the meantime we’re saying we can’t wait for Congress, and we’re going to go ahead and do everything we can through executive actions — whether it’s this refinancing program, or tomorrow I’m going to be talking about making college more affordable for young people — we’re not going to wait for Congress.”)
  3. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President at Signing of Executive Order, (Oct. 31, 2011, 12:50 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/10/31/remarks-president-signing-executive-order  (“Congress has been trying since February to do something about this. It has not yet been able to get it done. And it is the belief of this administration, as well as folks like Bonnie and Jay, that we can’t wait for action on the Hill — we’ve got to go ahead and move forward.”)
  4. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on Head Start in Yeadon, Pennsylvania, (Nov. 8, 2011, 11:43 AM), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/11/08/remarks-president-head-start-yeadon-pennsylvania (“Our children deserve action.  And we can’t wait for Congress any longer.”)
  5. Press Release, The White House,Remarks by the President at the House Democrats Issues Conference, (Jan. 27, 2012, 1:36 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/01/27/remarks-president-house-democrats-issues-conference  (“On the other hand, where they obstruct, where they’re unwilling to act, where they’re more interested in party than they are in country, more interested in the next election than the next generation, then we’ve got to call them out on it.  We’ve got to call them out on it. We’ve got to push them.  We can’t wait.  We can’t be held back.”)
  6. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on No Child Left Behind Flexibility, (Feb. 9, 2012, 1:57 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/02/09/remarks-president-no-child-left-behind-flexibility (“In September, after waiting far too long for Congress to act, I announced that my administration would take steps to reform No Child Left Behind on our own.  This was one of the first and the biggest “We Can’t Wait” announcements that we’ve made, because our kids and our schools can’t be held back by inaction.”)
  7. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on the Economy — Warrensburg, Missouri, (Jul. 25, 2013, 5:09 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/25/remarks-president-economy-warrensburg-missouri (“And I’m going to take these plans all across the country, and I’m going to ask folks for help because, frankly, sometimes I just can’t wait for Congress.  It just takes them a long time to decide on stuff.”)
  8. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on the Economy — Jacksonville, FL, (Jul. 25, 2013, 2:45 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/07/25/remarks-president-economy-jacksonville-fl (“Unfortunately, over the past two years, too many folks in Washington have been cutting these investments.  The world can’t wait for Congress to get its act together.”)
  9. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, (Jan. 15, 2014, 1:14 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/15/remarks-president-national-network-manufacturing-innovation  (“Long term, the challenge of making sure everybody who works hard can get ahead in today’s economy is so important that we can’t wait for Congress to solve it.  Where I can act on my own without Congress, I’m going to do so.”)
  10. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on Opportunity for All and Skills for America’s Workers, (Jan. 30, 2014, 11:27 AM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/01/30/remarks-president-opportunity-all-and-skills-americas-workers  (“Some of the ideas I presented I’m going to need Congress for.  But America cannot stand still, and neither will I.  So wherever I can take steps to expand opportunity, to help working families, that’s what I’m going to do with or without Congress.  I want to work with them, but I can’t wait for them. We’ve got too much work to do out there,”)
  11. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on Jobs in American Infrastructure, (Feb. 26, 2014, 2:40 PM), http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/02/26/remarks-president-jobs-american-infrastructure  (“But what I also said at the State of the Union is, in this year of action, whenever I can partner directly with states or cities or business leaders or civic leaders to act on this opportunity agenda, I’m going to go ahead and do it.  We can’t wait.  We’ve got to move.  We’ve got to get things going.  Too many families are counting on it.”)
  12. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President Before Cabinet Meeting, (Jul. 1, 2014, 11:04 AM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/01/remarks-president-cabinet-meeting  (“And part of the reason that I wanted to bring the Cabinet together today is to underscore for them my belief I think shared by most Americans that we can’t wait for Congress to actually get going on issues that are vital to the middle class.”)
  13. Press Release, The White House, Remarks by the President on the Economy, (Jul. 1, 2014, 2:22 PM),http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/01/remarks-president-economy (“Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me.”)

I’m sure there are more that I missed.