In President Barack Obama's State of the Union address last year, he announced many policy priorities that never saw light after it fell into the hands of Congress.
"Senators of both parties are working together on tough new laws to prevent anyone from buying guns for resale to criminals ... These proposals deserve a vote in Congress," Obama said last February. Gun legislation died in the Senate in April.
“The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform," he also said. No legislation been passed yet.
One year on, these — and many other — visions have not been fulfilled, largely because of partisan gridlock in Congress.
With approval ratings at all-time lows, 2013 was a bad year for Congress. If you judge the House and the Senate by the number of bills passed, it was one of the least productive 12 months in congressional history. It even included a partisan-politics-induced 16-day government shutdown in October.
According to reports in The Washington Post, as Obama prepares for his sixth State of the Union address, he and his staff have a new strategy: bypass Congress in order to get more things done by executive order.
"He's going to look in every way he can with his pen and his phone," Dan Pfeiffer, a senior White House adviser, said Sunday. "The president is not going to tell the American people he will wait for Congress. We need to show the American people that we can get something done, either through Congress or on our own."
Republicans also took to the Sunday-morning television circuit to air their concerns about the president's strategy.
"I'm the first to acknowledge the president and I don't agree on every issue, but if you took 10 issues, I think there are two or three that we agree on," said Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. "Why don't we go after the issues that we agree on?"
A divided Congress may be one reason for more executive actions, but it's not the only one
Last year saw a White House roiled by a botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act, damaging leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits. This year the administration is feeling the urgency to prove that it get things done for the American people.
According to the latest Washington Post poll, half of the country disapproved of Obama's job performance, while 46 percent approved. Yet the same poll found more than half of Americans supported his use of executive action, with 42 percent opposed.
Still, key policy reforms, such as increasing the minimum wage and lowering the cost of higher education, are nearly impossible without bipartisan legislation.
And with the State of the Union coming less than two weeks before the Treasury Department loses its authority to borrow more money, the chess game between the White House and Congress is again moving into the spotlight.
Will President Obama issue more executive actions this year?
And if he decides to use the pen and phone more, what will he focus on?
What are the potential repercussions in Congress if the president choses to use more executive actions?
We consulted a panel of experts for the Inside Story.
The above panel was assembled for the broadcast of Inside Story to discuss.
For future hard-hitting conversations, find Al Jazeera America on your TV.