Obama said he would prefer that Congress act on issues such as immigration and infrastructure because laws are more sweeping than his own administrative actions.
"We're not always going to be able to get things through Congress, at least not this Congress," Obama said. "I want to make sure we emphasize not what we can't do, but what we can do in the coming months."
Speaking at Washington's Key Bridge, Obama in shirt sleeves and his tie undone made a pitch to fix the nation's bridges and highways.
He called on Congress to close tax loopholes and use the money on infrastructure projects, a long shot idea that has little if any support among congressional Republicans.
"It's not crazy. It's not socialism," he said, mocking the criticism from some conservative quarters. "You know, it's not, you know, the imperial presidency or no laws are broken."