“I'm proud that the President took executive action, because he can't allow America's future to be held hostage by a Congress that won't do anything,” said Emanuel of his one-time boss in an interview with CNN.
Emanuel is in Washington for a Tuesday event at the White House, where Obama will unveil new private sector partnerships to boost manufacturing.
Obama will announce two new manufacturing innovation institutes led by the Defense Department in Detroit and Chicago.
The move is just the latest in a series of executive actions taken by the president to promote his economic agenda.
Obama has vowed that 2014 will be a “year of action” on his priorities of fighting income inequality and boosting the middle class. The president said he is open to working with Congress but that he will act on his own if lawmakers fail to adopt his agenda.
Since his State of the Union address, Obama has signed executive orders raising the minimum wage for new federal contract workers, announced the creation of new climate hubs to help farmers deal with extreme weather and plans for raising truck fuel standards, among other unilateral initiatives.
Emanuel, Obama’s first White House chief of staff, served in that post until October 2010, and was elected mayor of Chicago the following year.