By Mike Lillis and Justin Sink - 02/14/14 09:57 AM EST
CAMBRIDGE, Md. – Vice President Biden urged Democrats on Friday to take the fight to the Republicans this election year, as he argued voters were on the party's side on crucial issues.
Addressing House Democrats gathered on the Eastern Shore for their annual issues conference, the vice president said voters agree with Democrats on almost every major issue being debated in Washington, from the minimum wage, to early education, to immigration reform and tougher gun laws.
“Keep your eye on the ball,” he urged. “The American people are where we are. Let's go out and make every single effort, not just to defend, but to aggressively push … our agenda.
“They are with us,” he added, “and I'm sure as hell glad I'm with you.”
Democrats would need to win 17 seats to take back the House, a tall order in a midterm election for the president’s party.
Obama’s sluggish approval ratings aren’t helping their odds, and the retirements of longtime Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), both allies of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have sent the signal that Democrats’ aren’t optimistic about their chances.
In the Senate, Democrats are in danger of losing their majority. The party must defend a number of seats in difficult states.
Biden suggested his party still has time to build momentum ahead of Election Day. He said that there were “three political lifetimes” that would eclipse before Election Day, encouraging Democrats to be optimistic about their chances of gaining seats in the House and protecting the Senate.
“I can’t imagine our prospects being viewed … as a whole hell of a lot brighter by the time we get to November,” he said.
The vice president’s appearance at the retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland came a day late, after a winter storm socked the Eastern Seaboard on Thursday and prevented him from traveling to the meeting.
Part thank you message and part pep-rally, his speech was a continuation on the themes President Obama and the Democrats are highlighting this year in an all-hands-on-deck effort to distinguish their economic agenda from that of the Republicans.
Behind Pelosi, House Democrats on Thursday announced that they will push a discharge petition designed to force a vote on the minimum wage hike. The effort has little chance of practical success, but politically it could benefit the party by underscoring the GOP's resistance to a popular economic proposal amid the fragile economic recovery.
“I think it’d be a sin if we didn’t talk about income inequality,” Biden said.
“We have an obligation,” he continued. “The reason that America is a strong as vital as it is is it has the most strong and robust middle class.”
Pointing to the multiple responses to Obama’s State of the Union, Biden said Republicans were too fractured to function as a governing party.
Divisions in the GOP were on display this week as the party struggled to approve legislation hiking the nation’s debt ceiling.
“There isn’t a Republican Party. I wish there were. I wish there was one person we could sit across the table from,” the vice president said.