Back in her hometown Monday, senior presidential adviser Valerie Jarrett pushed her boss’s State of the Union agenda, while taking some ribbing from her former White House colleague — Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“When you look at the president’s agenda, you look at what we’re trying to do here in the city of Chicago, Cook County and throughout the area — they are mirror goals as well as mirror plans, and the difference is we are obviously getting them done,” Emanuel said, addressing Jarrett and 200 or so business and civic leaders at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center downtown. “He has the United States Congress. As I always joke with him, what you need is a City Council like Chicago to help us move our agenda forward.”
Jarrett, calling her visit “a trip down memory lane,” didn’t announce any new initiatives, instead preferring to emphasize — as President Barack Obama did during his State of the Union address last month — the importance of getting work done with or without Congress’ cooperation.
“The president is committed to working with Congress and we have a robust agenda,” Jarrett said, later adding: “But if we are unable to get Congress to act, that doesn’t mean it can’t be a year of action, and that’s where all of you come in.”
Among other things, Jarrett called on the group to market the benefits of the president’s Affordable Care Act. She said some three million people have already signed up for health insurance through the president’s marketplace system.
“History will prove how important this is,” Jarrett said. “There hasn’t been a major initiative such as the Affordable Care Act that has been put in place that hasn’t had some bumps along the way.”
Before Jarrett spoke, Emanuel joked: “Valerie, I want to welcome you home and welcome you to the kickoff of the presidential library fundraiser.”
The University of Chicago, Chicago State University and the University of Illinois at Chicago have all expressed an interest in being home to the library.
When asked about Emanuel’s joke later, Jarrett said, “You couldn’t blame him for trying.”