American Workers Need Help from Washington, Obama Adviser Says

By Susan Jones | January 27, 2014 | 5:48 AM EST

White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer. (AP)

( - "I think it's important to remember that what we're trying to do here is restore opportunity for all Americans, grow the economy and create jobs," White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer told "Fox News Sunday."

"I think we've made tremendous progress, but there's much more work to do. The president has always said that. ...American businesses, American workers are doing the right thing. We -- Washington needs to help them."

Pfeiffer said President Obama, in Tuesday's State of the Union Address, will call for a hike in the minimum wage and more infrastructure spending as a way to help American workers.

"If Congress were to do that, we would -- we would make tremendous progress. This can be a year of action, and we can make real progress, but we have to do it together. And if Congress doesn't act, the president will."

Pfeiffer said Obama will make specific proposals on job training, education, manufacturing and energy: "And these will be some legislative proposals, but also a number of actions he can take on his own."

Pfeiffer said the president will act with Congress where he can -- and act on his own where he can:

"The way we have to think about this year is we have divided government. The Republican Congress is not going to rubber-stamp the president's agenda. The president is not going to sign the Republican Congress' agenda. So we have to find areas where we can work together. We could start by passing -- extending unemployment benefits for 1.6 million Americans, pass a farm bill, pass immigration reform, infrastructure -- so, array of things we can do together. No one's going to get everything they want, but you can do that.

"But also the president will say to the country he's not going to wait. He has a pen and he has a phone. He's going to use those to move the ball forward to create opportunity."

Host Chris Wallace noted that other presidents, including Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, managed to get their ideas passed in a divided Congress: "Why can't this president," he asked.

"Well, we have made progress," Pfeiffer responded. "We've got a budget this year. This president has a legislative record that stands up to any: Affordable Care Act, Wall Street reform, array of issues that we have made progress on. But what we're going to -- this is -- Washington does not work as well as it should. Everyone knows that.

"Last year the American people looked at Washington with the shutdown, the near default, the problem with, and they were frustrated. And so it's incumbent upon all of us, the president included, to try to rebuild that trust with the American people and make progress. And what they want to see is progress, either in Congress or from the president on his own.

As for how much a president can do without legislation, "You can do a lot," Pfeiffer said.

"I'll say two things from 2013 that don't get enough attention. First, the president put in place a climate action plan to reduce carbon pollution, taking historic steps -- something he did without Congress. He -- and then we also worked with the FCC. So we have an initiative in place. It is moving forward to provide wireless access to 99 percent of school districts in this country. That is significant, something to do without Congress."