Biden echoes House Dems’ early 2024 pitch: Look what we accomplished
BALTIMORE — President Joe Biden took a victory lap with House Democrats at their yearly retreat with one clear message: Let’s tout our legislative wins.
Biden stopped by the Democrats’ yearly retreat, this time in Baltimore, where he listed off all their accomplishments in the 117th Congress, when Democrats held both chambers.
“It’s been one of the most successful, united caucuses we have ever seen. And you all stick together. Thank god, look what’s already happened,” Biden said with a smile and to cheers from the assembled lawmakers.
In his nearly half-hour speech, he later told Democrats exactly what they were hoping to hear: “I promised to partner with you and coordinate with you to make sure the implementation of these laws is done efficiently and effectively, and let the American people know who did it. As they feel the benefits of the investment, you did it.”
The lion’s share of caucus members cheered Biden on in Charm City, though several skipped his speech and stayed in D.C. for a tribute concert honoring singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell.
“Folks are going to understand what you’ve done. We’re going to make sure of it,” Biden said about his 2024 plan.
At one point, Biden even took a swing at Freedom Caucus member Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), suggesting her politics are driving Republicans to the Democratic Party.
“A little bit more Marjorie Taylor Greene, a few more and you’re gonna have a lot of Republicans run on our way,” he joked to House Democrats as they laughed in the audience. “Isn’t she amazing? Oof.”
Biden also took a handful of questions from lawmakers in a closed-door session following his remarks about the implementation of policies, the war in Ukraine, inflation, the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, and workers rights, according to two people familiar with his remarks.
Biden told lawmakers, “Russia has already lost” before clarifying to say that Russia wouldn’t be able to occupy Ukraine but could still destroy it, according to the people familiar with his remarks. He also predicted the Federal Reserve could hike interest rates by as much as 25 basis points over the next three quarters, the people said.
Biden’s outreach to Hill Dems comes at a key point for the party. They have to run their 2024 message from both sides now, defending the White House and Senate while trying to take back the House. Divided government gives Democrats little room to legislatively deliver over the next two years, but also stops them from simply running against Republicans.
So House Democrats are focusing instead on their major accomplishments from the last Congress, as the effects of those laws — some of which take years to implement — become more evident over time. They’re looking to the president to guide messaging on that front, as well as set realistic goals for what the party can achieve before 2024.
Touting their track record, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, who introduced the president, said their mantra of “People Over Politics” had been a “way of life” for Democrats as “we govern together under the leadership of President Biden and Speaker Pelosi in partnership with House Democrats and Senate Democrats.”
The relaxed tone of this year’s gathering stands in contrast to last year’s chaotic dash to Philadelphia following a bruising rank-and-file revolt over a spending deal. There had even been questions about canceling that retreat, amid caucus-wide frustrations and lingering ideological divisions over the fate of a mammoth party-line spending bill.
Now in the minority, Democrats are having an easier time unifying without the pressures of governing — allowing them to fully focus on campaign messaging for 2024.
“We’re recruiting great candidates across the country, we're going to defend our incredible members, and take the majority so that we have Speaker Hakeem Jeffries,” Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.), the chair of House Democrats’ campaign arm, told reporters.
Democratic House members are also gathering in different groups to discuss a variety of policy messages, including national security and health care. And there’s even a closed-door session where Jordan Klapper of the Daily Show will interview Jeffries, Minority Whip Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.).
Other sessions will involve huddles with Biden administration officials and a series of closed-door strategy meetings as they formulate their best path to victory. Most of the sessions aren't expected to prompt any fireworks, though one closed-door panel will tackle border issues, featuring a conversation between Hispanic Caucus chair Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) and border-district members who have pushed for more border resources, such as Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-N.M.).
Members of the Hispanic Caucus have already sparred with the Biden administration over proposed rules that could make it harder for many migrants to claim asylum, though Barragán said the planned discussion was mostly to allow border-district members to relay their experiences to others in the caucus.
“I think Democrats need a unified message around immigration reform, and we have to stand for something and not being on defense opposing what Republicans have proposed for many years,” said Vasquez, who flipped a seat in the 2022 elections.
Some Democrats, anticipating gridlock on hot-button issues like immigration in the divided Congress, are already looking to the president to take executive action.
“I’m not very positive and optimistic that we're going to find some bipartisan legislation,” said Rep. Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.) “And so what are the executive things we can do to maintain protections while we work and build ourselves for the next session?”
Other Democrats are also hopeful for modest progress across the aisle, hoping to convince some moderate Republicans to join their legislative goals, including on Ukraine aid or legislation to combat China.
“Hopefully we can get some Republicans crossing the line so that we can still get some things done for the American people. Because that’s what it's all about,” said New York Rep. Gregory Meeks, top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee.
Sarah Ferris contributed to this report.