Feb. 14, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

House Democrats to Get SOTU Preview from Obama at Retreat

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Top House Democrats such as Pelosi were delighted Obama took a liberal turn after his re-election and are counting on him to stay on offense.

House Democrats are heading to a retreat in Leesburg, Va., unified around a more aggressively liberal agenda put forward by President Barack Obama at his inaugural address, but they are facing lingering questions about how they’ll navigate the difficult path back to a House majority.

Lawmakers say the discussions at the three-day gathering will be dominated by four looming policy fights: spending battles, immigration, gun control and electoral changes. Obama is expected to brief Democrats on his plans for those issues Thursday, including a preview of his upcoming State of the Union address.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. will speak Wednesday, and President Bill Clinton is slated to deliver the closing keynote address Friday. There is also a surprise guest planned for Friday morning: Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra of California would only describe him as “he who will not be named.”

Unlike House Republicans at their confab in Williamsburg, Va., last month, Democrats are not facing a major crossroads over strategy.

Top House Democrats were delighted that Obama took a markedly liberal turn following his re-election and are counting on him to stay on offense, pressuring House Republicans to pass his agenda rather than becoming mired in spending battles defined by the GOP.

“We were so thrilled with the president’s inaugural address,” said Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm, so you want to just keep that momentum going because I think everybody knows we’ve got some big things to do,” Becerra said, noting that registration for the event was unusually high this year.

“I think the president’s gonna spend most of his time giving us an idea of what he’s getting ready to tell the nation and the world at State of the Union. I think he’s going to be building on his great speech at inauguration,” Becerra said.

An underlying dynamic between House Democrats and Obama are questions about how much the president will do to help their efforts to retake the House in 2014 now that he no longer needs to worry about being re-elected.

Obama and his political machine have tended not to provide much assistance to congressional Democrats, including not directing any Democratic National Committee funds to congressional races in the 2012 elections.

Key Democrats said the issue is one they are watching closely but do not expect to discuss with the president at the retreat.

“The president working with the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and helping out some of our current members and some future members would be great,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz, the campaign committee’s finance chairwoman.

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