Obama made an appearance at the House Democratic Caucus retreat in Virginia on Thursday, where he addressed the caucus, then took questions from members.
Republicans have, in recent months, shown a willingness to essentially relinquish control of the chamber, bringing bills to the floor that pass with mostly Democratic votes — a precedent Democrats frequently cite.
One key question is whether Obama can repeat it on issues such as immigration and gun control, with no deadline or looming disaster forcing Congress to act in a given time frame.
Another is whether Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, is willing to risk a GOP revolt to allow future bills that do not enjoy support from a majority of Republicans to pass the House.
The most pressing issue facing Congress is the sequester, which is slated to go into effect March 1.
The GOP would like to replace the sequester with other, more targeted spending cuts, while Democrats have said Congress should replace them with a combination of cuts and tax increases that would decrease the deficit by the same amount.
“We need to reduce the deficit, but it shouldn’t just be on the backs of seniors, it shouldn’t just be on the backs of young people who are trying to get a college education, it shouldn’t just be on the backs of parents who are trying to give their kids a better start in life — that all of us have to participate,” Obama said in his speech to House Democrats. “I promise you we can win that debate.”
Obama also made several references to complaints from House members who feel he has not paid sufficient attention to their interests, at times gently mocking them for taking issue with his approach.
Beginning his remarks with an unexpected announcement that he would take questions from members after his speech, Obama said, “I thought, since this is not a shy bunch, it might make sense for me to take some questions and some advice I’m sure you guys have for me.”
He later referred to reading about the complaints in the press but said that as long as members remember “why we came here in the first place” and that “maybe my purpose here on Earth is not just thinking about what’s in it for me,” Democrats will continue making “extraordinary progress” on policy fights.
“As a by-product of doing that good work and keeping that focus, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi’s gonna be speaker again real soon,” he added.