PHILADELPHIA — As a House Democratic retreat obsessed with messaging on the middle class came to a close Friday, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. implored his congressional colleagues to not run from the White House's economic record.
"Let's resolve to double down," Biden told House Democrats assembled in the Sheraton ballroom. "Let's resolve to double down right now." He told Democrats they shouldn't apologize for actions like the stimulus, the automotive industry bailout or the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which he called "probably the least popular vote we've had to take."
Biden suggested that, while these programs might be unpopular, they were wildly successful. He said TARP ended up generating $15 billion in revenue; the auto bailout led to more than 20 million U.S. car sales in a year; and the stimulus stabilized an economy in free-fall.
Biden's speech, however, wasn't completely rose-colored.
He acknowledged at the start of his roughly 35-minute remarks that the economy under President Barack Obama had been difficult. "To state the obvious, the past six years have been really tough for this country," he said, adding that it's also been "really, really tough for our party."
Still, he said things were turning around, that they had been turning around for quite some time, and he criticized Republicans for only now conceding that. "Now the Republican Party," Biden scoffed, "it's amazing: Now they're trying to rewrite history."
On Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's recent acknowledgment that the economy is showing hope, Biden said, "Mitch, it ain't hope; it's recovery."
Biden said the economy is undergoing a "genuine resurgence."
He told Democrats if they didn't start defending the administration's record on the bettering economy, Republicans were going to starting taking credit for it. "As Paul Ryan learned the word, it's a bunch of malarkey," Biden said of the suggestion that Republicans were responsible for the recovery.
But he warned Democrats that if they don't speak up, if they don't reassert the administration's case, then Republicans are going to get through to voters. And he said Democrats shouldn't be critical of the American people if they don't give Democrats credit. "Because we're not saying it," he said.
"You got to embrace what we did, be proud of it, stand up," he continued.
Biden's speech, which received, as expected, a warm reception, was more specific in its defense of administration policies than President Barack Obama's fiery speech the night before .
House Democrats spent the retreat repeating the words "middle class" — and then repeating them again and again — a fact Biden seemed to acknowledge, and perhaps even resent as a supposedly new message.
"Economic expansion occurs when you focus on the middle class," Biden said. When Democrats interrupted Biden to applaud his "on-message" message, Biden interrupted the crowd. "No, for real," Biden said. "For real, not a joke — I apologize for always talking about it for the last 20 years."
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