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With GOP Congress incoming, Obama plots his 2015 strategy

After a two-week vacation that included golf, hiking and joining his daughters for Hawaiian shave ice, President Obama plans to hit the ground running next week
Obama set to return to GOP-controlled Congress 02:15

HONOLULU -- Last January, President Barack Obama declared 2014 the year of the "pen and phone." Where Congress would not act, the president said, he would use his pen to take executive action and his phone to wrangle support from outside groups.

2015 doesn't look all that different.

Predictions for 2015 political landscape 08:51

White House aides describe their strategy for the new year (and the new Republican-led Senate) as a "blend" of executive pen-and-phone action on issues like climate change and legislative pushes on tax reform, infrastructure funding and trade -- areas where they believe they can find bipartisan consensus on Capitol Hill.

It's not necessarily a new tactic. The administration points to the two months since the midterm elections as an example of this mixed strategy. The president acted unilaterally to reform the immigration system and overhaul U.S. policy toward Cuba, while the White House and Congress were able to agree on an omnibus spending bill to keep the government running.

The White House is rolling out its domestic economic agenda ahead of the State of the Union address on January 20. Drafts of the speech are already circulating the West Wing.

Administration officials won't reveal what specific executive actions or legislative proposals the president will recommend, but on Saturday the White House announced presidential visits to Detroit, Phoenix and Tennessee ahead of the State of the Union. Mr. Obama will use these visits to promote items on his agenda like manufacturing and the auto industry, affordable housing and education.

But 2015 could become the year of the veto. For the first time in eight years, Republicans will control both houses of Congress.

Will Congress and the White House work together? 09:06

A GOP leadership aide tells CBS News the House will move next week on bills to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline and tweak the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act by raising the law's definition of a full-time workweek from 30 hours to 40 hours per week. The president has publicly criticized congressional attempts to force his hand on Keystone, and he's said he won't sign any bill that significantly undermines the health care law.

"There are a number of issues we could make progress on, but the president is clear that he will not let this Congress undo important protections gained - particularly in areas of health care, Wall Street reform and the environment," White House spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Even though Republicans do not hold enough seats to override a veto on a party-line vote, the symbolism of such a vote would hold political significance for Republicans. President Obama regularly harangued House Republicans for their inability to send bills to his desk over the last four years. In 2015, Mr. Obama will get what he asked for.

"They're going to be putting up every bill known to the far right on his desk, hoping that he'll be embarrassed into vetoing it and making Democrats look like they're the ones keeping the country at a standstill," CBS News presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said.

The White House dismisses claims that the president could be accused of obstructionism, arguing that their economic priorities would help middle class Americans more than building an oil pipeline from Canada to Texas or sapping the president's signature health care law.

So far, the president has vetoed two bills since taking office.

CBS News' Jill Jackson contributed to this report.

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