(CNSNews.com) - "[T]he American people don't want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done," President Obama said on Wednesday. But even as he takes unilateral action, "I'm bound by the Constitution," he said.
Obama was responding to a reporter who asked him if a dysfunctional Congress gives him a "green light to push the limits of executive power."
"Well, you know, I think that I never have a green light. I'm bound by the Constitution," Obama said. "I'm bound by separation of powers. There's some things we can't do.
"Congress has the power of the purse, for example. I would love to fund a large infrastructure proposal right now that would put millions of people to work and boost our GDP. We know we've got roads, and bridges and airports and electrical grids that need to be rebuilt, but without the cooperation of Congress, what I can do is speed up permitting process, for example. I can make sure we're working with the private sector to see if we can channel investment into much-needed projects.
"But ultimately, Congress has to pass a budget and authorize spending. So I don't have a green light."
Although Congress has the power of the purse, House Speaker John Boehner told CNSNews.com in July he does not plan to use it to defund presidential actions that exceed President Obama's constitutional authority.
Obama on Wednesday said his preference is to work with Congress, particularly on immigration reform, and he once again complained about "inaction on the part of House Republicans."
"So in the face of that kind of dysfunction, what I can do is, you know, scour our authorities to try to make progress. And we're going to make sure that every time we take one of these steps that we are working within the confines of my executive power.
"But I promise you, the American people don't want me just standing around twiddling my thumbs and waiting for Congress to get something done."
Obama said while he's acting on his own executive authority, he's still going to "reach out to Democrats and Republicans, to the speaker, to the leadership on both sides and in both chambers to try to come up with formulas where we can make progress, even if it's incremental."
Asked if he thinks he has the power to grant work permits to illegal aliens, Obama said the system is broken and "under-resourced," so "we've got to make choices in terms of how we allocate personnel and resources.
"That's well within our authority and prosecutorial discretion. My preference would be an actual comprehensive immigration law, and we already have a bipartisan law that would solve a whole bunch of these problems.
"Until that happens, I'm going to have to make choices. That's what I was elected to do."