Obama says his agenda will put Pelosi back in charge

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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President Barack Obama told House Democrats that his aggressive political agenda can help Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi regain the speakership of the House.

“It won’t be smooth, it won’t be simple, there will be frustrations, there will be times when you guys will be mad at me …. [but] as a byproduct of doing that good work, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi will be speaker again soon,” he said during a lunchtime speech at the Leesburg, Va., summit of the Democrats’ congressmen and congresswomen.

He outlined that agenda in his speech, telling the House members he would push for increased taxes, for curbs on guns and for an rewrite of immigration law.

Those controversies may divide the GOP’s House caucus, and may also spur turnout in 2014 by seniors on Medicare, and by the suburbanites and Hispanics who usually vote at lower rates during off-year elections. During the tenure of President George W. Bush, the GOP’s efforts to highlight political divides that favored the GOP — such as state ballots that defined marriage — were slammed as  “wedge issues” by Democratic activists and establishment media outlets.

The next fiscal battle will be fought over the 2011 sequester deal, which will cut roughly $90 billion from Pentagon and domestic spending by December, beginning in March.

The broad spending cut should be offset by targeted cuts and by tax increases on wealthy Americans, he said.

The GOP wants to cut Medicare and Social Security, education and aid for parents with disabled kids, he said. But the cuts “shouldn’t be on the backs of seniors … [or] young people trying to get a college education, [or] parents who are trying to give their kids a better start in life,” he declared.

He said he wants “to close some tax loopholes and deductions that the average American can’t take advantage of … [and] that is an argument I’m more than willing to engage in.”

“We can win that debate because we’re on the right side of the argument,” he said.

This week, Obama’s White House deputies have been meeting with lobbyists for groups that receive federal funding, such as defense companies, and with lobbyists for groups of retailers, business owners and bankers.

The meetings were called to “discuss the president’s efforts to find a balanced approach to reduce the deficit and avoid the devastating effects of the sequester along,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday.

The groups also met to talk about the “president’s approach to comprehensive immigration reform and how it fits into our broader economic agenda,” Carney said.

An immigration rewrite is also critical, Obama told his fellow Democrats.

The country has gained from “our history of attracting talent from all around the globe — I’ve seen that talent in some of the young ‘dreamers’ that I’ve met,” he claimed.

“Dreamers” refer to people who were brought into the country as children, and are named after the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, an conditional amnesty bill that has repeatedly been defeated in Congress.

Obama has already offered work permits to at least 800,000 of the younger illegal immigrants, even though only 20 percent have any post-high-school education.

“Now is the time,” he declared, although he also acknowledged that any rewrite faces tough opposition. “In some places, this may end up being a tough issue,” he said.

Obama said he would also push for new curbs on “the cycle of gun violence,” while warning that issue is also unpopular in some places.

“There are regional differences, and we should respect those,” he said. “Guns mean something different for someone who grew up on a farm … [than for] someone who grew up in a city,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot more work to do… but as long as we keep in mind why we came here in the first place … [and] as a byproduct of doing that good work, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi will be speaker again soon.”

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