By Justin Sink
President Obama emphasized "the importance of working together" on legislative priorities like immigration reform, raising the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits during his meeting with House Democrats, the White House said Tuesday.
"While he will continue to take action through executive authority, [the president] stressed the importance of working with Congress on their shared priorities to help the middle class," the White House said of the meeting held in the East Room.
"Expanding on the vision of opportunity and optimism laid out by the President in his State of the Union address last week, we laid out plans to address the nation’s top priorities: creating jobs by making it in America," the lawmakers said. "We are committed to building an economy that works for everyone by raising the minimum wage and renewing the lifeline of emergency unemployment insurance."
The congressional leaders also stressed the theme of unity.
“Working together, we can deliver on the full promise of America and forge a brighter, more prosperous future for generations to come," they said.
The event, billed as a "roundtable discussion," is the first of two high-profile gatherings between the president and House Democrats this month. Next week, Obama and Vice President Biden will attend the caucus's retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
The president’s appearance comes amid a spate of high-profile retirements among top House Democrats. On Tuesday, Rep. Robert Andrews (N.J.) announced his retirement. Last week, Reps. George Miller (Calif.) and Henry Waxman (Calif.) signaled their intention to leave office.
The departures would seem to indicate Democrats aren’t bullish about their chances to take back the House. But House Democrats have raised more money than House Republicans, largely on the back of at least seven fundraisers by the president and first lady for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since 2013. The president has also appeared at a fundraiser for the House Victory Fund.
Democrats would need to pick up 17 seats in the House to return the Speaker’s gavel to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Throughout the session, lawmakers tweeted photos of the president and Pelosi speaking from behind a small podium.
Wnt to mtg at WH w/Pres Obama, Cabinet members & Dem Caucus to discuss upcoming priorities. pic.twitter.com/FO9pAg12Kn— Rep. Gene Green (@RepGeneGreen) February 4, 2014
During the meeting, Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) tweeted that she spoke to Obama about the drought plaguing her home state, and that the president pledged to work with the state's delegation. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the discussion also touched on the economy, healthcare, immigration and raising the minimum wage.
Earlier Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney described the event as an opportunity for Obama to socialize with lawmakers.
"It’s part of an overall approach, running up to and in the wake of the State of the Union address, where the President is meeting with Democrats who share his priorities and vision when it comes to taking action to strengthen the middle class and to provide ladders of opportunity into the middle class," Carney said.