If President Barack Obama does not get what he wants from Congress this year, he will take the desired action on his own, White House aides have warned. So, what else is new?
"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 reporters a few days ago. Other advisers to the president said that means action by executive order, not legislation from Congress.
That is not a fresh approach by this president, however. During much of his five years in office, Obama has taken it upon himself to issue wide-ranging executive orders on matters that properly should have been left to Congress. He has made the Environmental Protection Agency a virtually unfettered tool to do his will, whether lawmakers agree or not.
His signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act, in many ways does not resemble the law approved by Congress. Obamacare has been altered over and over again by the president, sometimes to benefit his political cronies.
Do not look for Obama to make his action-by-fiat threat openly during his State of the Union speech tonight. That would irritate many Democrats, as well as Republicans, in Congress.
Obama will use the speech to outline his priorities for the coming year, leaving it up to lawmakers to speculate about which initiatives he will deign to allow them to review.
Some of what the president will propose will be popular among liberal Democrats on Capitol Hill. That is because many of them face uphill battles for reelection - because of what Obama already has done. Now, through proposals such as increasing the minimum wage, Obama feels it necessary to help them attract votes from their historic base.
But many thoughtful Democrats will be skeptical about other plans by the White House, including ongoing attempt to increase electricity costs for tens of millions of Americans by forcing utilities to abandon coal as a generating fuel.
Whatever Obama's plans and no matter how harmful they are to the nation, he has signaled he will not allow the elected representatives of the people to stand in his way.
Thus far, with support from liberal Democrats, Obama has been allowed to run roughshod over the Constitution. Thoughtful members of his own party should join Republican lawmakers in turning back the assault - in defeating Obama's attempt to make his an imperial presidency of historic proportions.