CAMBRIDGE, Md. — President Barack Obama spent some quality time chatting up House Democrats on Friday night during a closed-door dinner here.
The president, who took a 30-minute helicopter ride from the White House to join his party’s House Members at their annual retreat, made brief remarks before circulating among Members and their families. Obama was the headliner for the evening; he followed an appearance earlier in the day from Vice President Joseph Biden.
“He is thanking them for how much they accomplished in the last two years and for the hard work he knows they’ll be doing these next two years — especially to strengthen the economy and create jobs,” White House spokesman Bill Burton said.
The press was barred from attending any of the event, but a Democratic aide said Obama thanked House Members “for their commitment and focus on jobs and the economy” and also spoke about the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.). Giffords, who was shot in the head two weeks ago in attempted assassination, was transferred Friday to a rehabilitation facility in Tucson, Ariz., where she will continue to recover.
Obama drew criticism from some rank-and-file House Democrats after the party lost 63 House seats and control of the chamber in the midterm elections. Many felt the president didn’t do enough to stem the losses.
On Thursday, Democratic leaders downplayed the idea that there was any lingering tension between Democrats and Obama.
“I don’t think there is a lot of sunlight between this president and the House Democratic Caucus,” Assistant Minority Leader James Clyburn (D-S.C.) said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.