Clinton to House Democrats: ‘We are a Family’

Posted June 25, 2008 at 11:32am

Cheers and whistles could be heard down the hall from Wednesday’s House Democratic Caucus meeting, where former presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) pushed a message of party unity and said she is “100 percent committed” to helping Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) become the country’s next president.

Clinton met with the Caucus for just over half an hour, during which time she pledged to “work hard” to get Obama into the White House and to elect more Democrats to Congress.

According to a source in the closed meeting, Clinton received a standing ovation when stating, “This was a very difficult campaign, let’s be honest. It caused some heartburn. … But we are a family. We are the Democratic Party and we are on the same team. So let’s go out and win in November.”

The New York Democrat said it is good to be back to work in the Senate, “just an ordinary, run-of-the-mill superdelegate.”

Clinton received a big round of applause when telling Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), “Madam Speaker, it’s wonderful to be here in the body that can actually pass legislation.”

Pelosi later described Clinton as “the most respected political figure in America.”

Clinton spoke for about 10 minutes in the meeting. At one point, she needled Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), a former Clinton White House aide, by saying, “That was my longest interaction with him without wincing,” referring to his frequent swearing.

Talking to reporters, Clinton said November is “a make-or-break election.” It has been “a long, long period” of being under the Bush-Cheney administration, she said. “That will be changing.”

In their first joint event following her concession, Clinton plans to campaign with Obama on Friday in Unity, N.H. Asked if her husband will be actively campaigning for Obama in the coming months, Clinton said, “He has said he will do whatever he can and whatever he is asked.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers exited the meeting visibly charged up.

Clinton was “absolutely marvelous,” House Rules Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) said.

“She lit up the room,” Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) said. She also talked about “real Democratic issues, why Democrats are Democrats: health care, energy, education, the economy, and making sure we’re there for working Americans. She got cheered on all of it.”

Woolsey said Clinton made it clear that her focus is on “getting Obama elected, doing whatever it takes. And also helping increase our margins in the House and Senate.”

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), a Clinton supporter who joined her on stage in New York City after the final primaries on June 3, summed up the Caucus meeting as a “love-fest.”

“People not only respect her, but they love her,” he said. “She’s a classy lady — she’s got a lot of class, a lot of grace, and there’s a lot of affection for her” in the Democratic Caucus.

McGovern said Clinton helped set the stage for healing rifts left from the drawn-out primary contest in her concession speech two-and-a-half weeks ago.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), an early Obama supporter, said Clinton’s message was that Democrats “are one great big happy family.”

Asked if that is actually true, Conyers replied, “If she says so, that’s it.”

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.), who on June 3 became the first member of the House Democratic leadership to endorse Obama, was coy about the meeting, saying only, “We are family. We’re going to get this done.”

Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) said Clinton was “humorous” and joked that Democrats should win elections “by acclamation,” which drew loud shouts and clapping from the Caucus.

Hastings said that Clinton also joked that Democrats should try to “increase our numbers by unanimous consent” and suggested that Republicans “ought to apologize” for leaving the country in bad shape and simply “not run for office.”