The former White House chief of staff dismissed Republican objections about Obama's use of regulatory and administrative authorities, saying lawmakers need to act if they want to drive the policy agenda.
"You don't want him to be an imperial president — put the money in the barrel. Go for it! Nobody is stopping you," Emanuel said, referring to the ability to stop regulations through the appropriations process.
The mayor said Obama's use of executive orders was in line with precedent.
"These are not equal, but the Emancipation Proclamation was an executive action. Integrating the armed forces was an executive action," Emanuel said. "Doubling the national parks was an executive action. He has a responsibility to not let the future slip from our hands."
The interview came on the eve of Obama naming Chicago home to one of two military manufacturing institutes.
The Chicago hub, to be led by UI Labs, will bring together 73 companies, universities, nonprofits and research labs, and will look for ways manufacturing tools and software can drive down costs. The federal government plans to pledge $70 million to the institute, which will be matched by private commitments.
"This is the Olympic gold. It brings brains and brawns together," Emanuel said.