By Justin Sink - 01/30/14 04:56 PM EST
President Obama said Thursday that his more modest State of the Union proposals were not the result of diminished ambitions or expectations, but rather having "got a lot of stuff done" through his first five years in office.
"Part of it is we got a lot of that stuff done," Obama said.
"That checklist that I had when I came into office, we have passed a lot of that, and we're implementing a lot of it," he added.
Obama pointed specifically to his signature healthcare reform package, saying that millions of Americans could now purchase coverage on federal exchanges. He also said his administration had made "enormous strides on the education front."
But Obama said he remained optimistic on other big legislative priorities, including comprehensive immigration reform.
"I actually think that we have a good chance of getting immigration reform," Obama said.
And, Obama argued, he believed he could make substantive progress on some other issues without help from lawmakers.
Still, Obama acknowledged that it would be difficult to pursue some of his more ambitious legislative goals.
"The House Republicans, in particular, have had difficulty rallying around any agenda, much less mine," Obama said. "And in that kind of environment, what I don't want is the American people to think that the only way for us to make big change is through legislation. We've all got to work together to continue to provide opportunity for the next generation."
Earlier Thursday, House Republicans sent the White House a letter saying they hoped to work together on "common ground."
"The president welcomes the credible input from anyone who wants to work with him to expand opportunity and to keep our economy growing," White House press secretary Jay Carney said. "We welcome that. The president will work with Congress on a whole host of areas where Congress demonstrates its willingness to try to find bipartisan compromises and cooperate."
The letter outlined four bills that had passed the House that Republican leaders say would accomplish goals the president advocated for in the State of the Union.
“Naturally, we don’t agree with all of the proposals you outlined in your speech, but where there is the potential for agreement we believe it is critical that we come together to advance the interests of the American people,” the letter, signed by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) said.
But the letter also criticized the president's pledge to use executive actions to move forward on his agenda.
“On Tuesday night you said, ‘let’s make this a year of action.’ We agree. Of course, under our Constitution, most action requires the Congress and the President to work together,” the Republican lawmakers said.