WASHINGTON — As the White House took the final steps at tooling President Obama’s State of the Union speech Monday, press secretary Jay Carney would only promise an “exciting and surprising” Tuesday address while lawmakers took last-minute stabs at shaping the message.

Obama is expected to put a heavy emphasis on income inequality and also wade into territory making congressional Republicans and vulnerable Dems nervous: his intention to bypass Congress on cherished agenda items.

“Restoring opportunity for all and expanding opportunity for all, those are very ambitious goals, and those are the goals the president has identified, those are the goals that the president will work all year toward achieving, and he will — in conducting that work, he will use every means available to him to move forward towards achievement of those goals, and that includes working with Congress and passing legislation and signing it where Congress will work with him,” Carney told reporters at the White House today.

“But he simply won’t stop there, because mindful of Congress’s reluctance to be cooperative at times, the president is going to exercise his authority. He’s going to use his pen and his phone to advance an agenda that is focused squarely on expanding opportunity, making sure that in America hard work and responsibility are rewarded, and that opportunity is expanded.”

Carney added, “I don’t think there’s any way to describe that, except as ambitious.”

“The president’s view is that he should use every tool available to him to move the country forward and to rally communities, businesses around the country, as well as elected officials and others — even journalists — among those at least who aren’t jaded — to the idea that — it’s just a joke — the — you know, that we can move this country forward together,” he said.

When pressed for details on the address, Carney said, “Well, it wouldn’t be exciting or surprising if I told you today.”

He added, though, that “it’s very exciting to be here and confronted with the opportunity to take action that the president sees before him.”

Republicans, though, charge that with three years left in his term, Obama is confronted with a host of problems that shouldn’t be left up to executive fiat.

“He intends to focus on income inequality leading up to the midterm elections this year. Well, the president’s right about at least one thing. Americans are hurting. Too many of the poorest Americans continue to suffer from stalled job creation, skyrocketing federal debt, burdensome regulations, and broken promises on health care reform,” Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said over the weekend in the GOP address.

“What President Obama fails to acknowledge is that Americans are hurting as a result of his own policies,” Blunt continued. “…When he delivers his State of the Union address this week, the president has a lot of explaining to do.”

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said if Obama wants to get people back to work and improve families’ financial situations, he’s got three tips: approve the Keystone XL pipeline, stop EPA regulatory actions that stifle business growth, and repeal the medical device tax.

“Seventy-nine senators support repealing the medical device tax. Harry Reid won’t bring it up for a vote in the Senate because he’s doing the bidding of President Obama who is so dug in on the health care law that he won’t allow this good idea, which has bipartisan support, to advance,” Barrasso said today on Fox.

“But I mean, this is the problem we’re dealing with. And it’s a shame for our country that we have a president who is viewed now as untrustworthy, incompetent. And Americans don’t believe that he will make the right decisions for the country.”

Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said he hopes Obama will “abandon this singular view of our Constitution” in asserting his intentions to use executive action more frequently.

“I serve in a divided government, and recognizing this fact is key to getting the work done that the American people sent us here to do,” Gardner said. “…2014 has the potential to be an extremely productive year, and I know there are officials on both sides of the aisle who want to work together. I strongly urge President Obama not to divide us politically, but rather to work with Democrats and Republicans to accomplish the goals of the American people, not those of a partisan agenda.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said he hoped Obama would reveal the “real answers” behind income inequality when the president addresses the joint session of Congress.