Biden urges Dems to take credit for big wins
With eye on taking back House in 2024, president delivers pep talk to lawmakers at start of party’s retreat in Baltimore
President Joe Biden repeatedly urged U.S. House Democrats meeting Wednesday evening in Baltimore to help the party claim credit for various initiatives, including a massive infrastructure package and gun safety measures.
“Folks are going to understand what you’ve done,” he said. “There’s so much more to do, though,” said the Democratic president, citing immigration reform, among other issues.
Biden addressed the House Democratic Caucus Issues Conference at a time when his administration also seeks to reinforce its assertion that congressional Republicans aim to put key health care programs on the chopping block.
Biden’s Marine One helicopter landed at Fort McHenry at 6:04 p.m., and he was whisked by motorcade downtown, arriving at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore-Inner
Harbor at 6:20 p.m. The street was filled with people taking photos and waving flags. One man held a sign over his head that read, “STOP ARMING UKRAINE.”
Biden started speaking at 6:41 p.m. in front of a row of American flags facing tables of House Democrats in a vast ballroom.
“It’s good to be almost home,” said Biden, who represented Delaware in the U.S. Senate for years.
Biden was introduced by House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York. Speaking before Jeffries, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore criticized congressional Republicans for using the threat of a national debt default to compel spending cuts.
“That’s not patriotic,” Moore said. “That’s irresponsible and that is reckless.”
Offering a preview Wednesday afternoon of their three-day conference, the House Democrats said they plan to strategize about issues — from abortion to the debt limit — with an eye on regaining a House majority in the 2024 elections.
Republicans seized a narrow House majority in the 2022 midterm elections. Among the scheduled sessions at the conference is one Thursday called “The Path to Win Back the Majority in 2024.”
“We need to take back that gavel. We’re at 213, so five more,” Rep. Suzan DelBene of Washington state, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters.
The Democrats’ blueprint before 2024 includes “making sure we can come together on an agenda that can continue moving the American family forward and to stop stupid stuff from Republicans,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus.
Halting that “stuff,” the California Democrat said, means preventing a national abortion ban and increasing the debt limit “so that our economy does not experience a significant negative shock.”
The “People Over Politics” summit,
The president on Wednesday referenced his State of the Union speech, during which he sought to compel Republicans to commit to not trimming Social Security.
which is not open to the public, is also to include sessions on gun violence prevention, growing the economy and U.S.-Mexico border issues. The agenda lists “an armchair conversation” Thursday with Vice President Kamala Harris.
It comes as Biden warns of possible House Republican cuts to health care programs, a message he delivered at his State of the Union address on Feb. 7 and again Tuesday in a speech in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
House Republicans have accused Biden of using scare tactics.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, has said cuts to Social Security and Medicare should not be considered as the parties negotiate over the debt limit and spending.
Biden’s administration and other Democrats say the GOP has signaled otherwise.
The president on Wednesday referenced his State of the Union speech, during which he sought to compel Republicans to commit to not trimming Social Security. Many GOP members heeded his call to literally stand up for the elderly in the House chamber.
“Maybe they found religion,”
Rep. Kweisi Mfume, a Baltimore Democrat, said Wednesday afternoon that “virtually every Republican budget or fiscal plan over
the past decade has included repeal of the Affordable Care Act and deep cuts to Medicaid.”
“McCarthy and his allies have committed to balancing
the budget while adding $3 trillion to the budget through tax cuts that are skewed to the wealthy and large corporations,” he said.
Mfume said McCarthy’s
budget “math doesn’t add up” without troubling cuts to discretionary programs.
Lawmakers must reach an agreement on the debt ceiling, the money the U.S. can borrow to pay its obligations.
Other sessions on the Baltimore conference agenda are on abortion and combating anti-Asian hate. The conference includes optional tours of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the National Aquarium.
Biden was last in the city on Jan. 30 to tout federal funding to replace Amtrak’s roughly 150-year-old Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel near Penn Station. He also has made trips to the Port of Baltimore and to a CNN town hall at Center Stage.
While president, Donald Trump spoke in Baltimore at a similar conference — a Republican retreat — in 2019 and was greeted by protesters as his motorcade sped through the city.