Faced with a recalcitrant Congress and a constrained budget, President Obama and his top aides are increasingly working to mobilize an outside coalition of corporate, nonprofit and academic groups to promote White House economic and social policies.
The strategy will be on display Thursday as the White House holds a summit with more than 100 college and university presidents, who will promise to enroll more low-income students and ensure that they graduate. This month, the administration also will sponsor a session for corporations that pledge to hire the long-term unemployed.
The president is privately exhorting his allies to do more on a range of other issues as well, including foreign investment in the United States, youth and women’s issues, and the hiring of military veterans.
It’s a simple strategy with a bureaucratic name: using the president’s “convening authority” to bring together the private and nonprofit sectors to move ahead on his agenda when Congress won’t, and then showcasing this action through traditional and social media.
“I’ve got a phone that allows me to convene Americans from every walk of life — nonprofits, businesses, the private sector, universities — to try to bring more and more Americans together around what I think is a unifying theme: making sure that this is a country where if you work hard, you can make it,” Obama said Tuesday before meeting with members of his Cabinet.
But White House officials acknowledge that the approach has its limits and is no substitute for major legislation to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure or overhaul immigration laws. Some groups the White House has approached say the initiatives in their areas have not had major policy consequences.
And on some issues, such as early childhood education, any real policy changes are unlikely to happen until after Obama leaves office, officials said.
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