From ‘Pass this bill’ to ‘We can’t wait’

To the surprise of no one, congressional Republicans aren’t at all fond of President Obama’s jobs agenda. They killed the overall American Jobs Act two weeks ago; they killed the teachers/first responders jobs bill last week; and they’ll kill the infrastructure jobs bill fairly soon. The GOP doesn’t have a job-creating alternative, and the party can’t explain exactly what they find to offensive about the Democratic plans, but that doesn’t seem to matter.

So, what’s the White House going to do now? While Senate Dems continue to force votes on components of the White House jobs agenda, the president and his team are moving forward with the next phase of their own plan.

With his jobs plan stymied in Congress by Republican opposition, President Obama on Monday will begin a series of executive-branch actions to confront housing, education and other economic problems over the coming months, heralded by a new mantra: “We can’t wait” for lawmakers to act.

According to an administration official, Mr. Obama will kick off his new offensive in Las Vegas, ground zero of the housing bust, by promoting new rules for federally guaranteed mortgages so that more homeowners, those with little or no equity in their homes, can refinance and avert foreclosure.

And Wednesday in Denver, the official said, Mr. Obama will announce policy changes to ease college graduates’ repayment of federal loans, seeking to alleviate the financial concerns of students considering college at a time when states are raising tuition.

Remember all of those public events in which Obama led the crowd in chants of “pass this bill”? Well, congressional Republicans responded, “No.” That clears the way for a new mantra: “We can’t wait.”

The phrase doesn’t mean, “We can’t wait for the next election; Congress needs to act now.” Rather, the point is, “Congress won’t act, so Obama is going to have to work on his own because we can’t wait.”

To that end, the president intends to announce “at least one initiative each week through the rest of the year, including steps to help returning veterans and small businesses,” relying almost exclusively on executive orders, regulatory moves, and executive-branch agency actions.

The steps will very likely be worthwhile, but let’s be clear: these actions will include modest efforts. It will help demonstrate that one end of Pennsylvania Avenue is actually working and trying to address public needs, but the administration acting unilaterally cannot fix the economy, or even give it a significant boost.

That would require Congress, which can’t — and apparently doesn’t want to — help.