'There are some big things we can do,' Obama tells House Democrats

McClatchy Washington BureauFebruary 14, 2014 


President Barack Obama speaks at the House Democratic Issues Conference in Cambridge, Md. Friday, Feb. 14, 2014.


President Barack Obama gave House Democrats a big thank you Friday, and reminded them there's a lot he can't do simply by himself.

Obama, frustrated with Congress, has turned to executive action in recent weeks.

"Sometimes the debates on Capitol Hill get so abstract," he said Friday.

But he told the House Democrats, who have consistently been his most loyal Capitol Hill allies, "there are some big things that we have to do that I cannot do through executive action, where we have to get Congress, and where the American people are on our side."

One is raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10. Obama earlier this week ordered employees of federal contractors to raise the wage starting next year.

Obama and many House Democrats disagree on whether the president should get fast-track trade authority. The issue, though, didn't come up, either during Obama's speech or a question and answer session that followed.

The Q and A featured mostly praise for the Affordable Care Act and a host of local questions.

Obama also talked about immigration. During his address, he urged lawmakers to get "a smart immigration policy in this country that grows our economy, gets people out of the shadows, makes sure that our businesses are thriving.

"That's got to be a top priority. We're going to have to keep on working on that," Obama said.

He spoke to the Democrats on the third and last day of their annual retreat. Meeting at a resort in Cambridge, Maryland, on Maryland's Eastern Shore, he spoke in a room where many seats were empty.

His message was to engage Republicans on immigration--many have expressed a desire to work together.

"I believe, frankly, that there are folks on the other side of the aisle who genuinely want to see this done. But they're worried and they're scared about the political blowback," Obama said. "And, look, everybody here is an elected official and we can all appreciate the maneuverings that take place, particularly in an election year.

"But when it comes to immigration reform, we have to remind ourselves that there are people behind the statistics, that there are lives that are being impacted, that punting and putting things off for another year, another two years, another three years, it hurts people. It hurts our economy. It hurts families."


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