Senate Dems press Obama on priorities

Senate Democrats pressed President Obama Wednesday evening on their legislative priorities in a bid to strengthen party unity ahead of the midterm elections.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) described the meeting as positive, after colleagues had grumbled for months that the White House had become too aloof from congressional Democrats.

“It was great,” said Reid. “Wonderful meeting.”

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said lawmakers pitched their top priorities for the election year to Obama. 

“The other members brought up what they’d like in the agenda for the State of the Union and what they would like us to concentrate on for 2014,” she said. 

“Implement ObamaCare, fix the [healthcare] exchange, deal with income inequality, keep the world safe,” she said. “A lot of things came up.”

A senior Senate aide described the meeting as a round-robin discussion of many topics, with the president making opening remarks and lawmakers taking up most of the session asking questions and raising issues.

“The group discussed their shared goals for 2014, and the president expressed his desire to continue to work together to advance a number of our priorities for the year to strengthen our economy, create jobs and build the middle class,” the White House said in a readout of the meeting.

Obama declared 2014 “a year of action” and said he would use his executive authority to advance his agenda, according to the readout.

The president also addressed the need for increasing the minimum wage, passing immigration reform, strengthening education and embracing “jobs and growth measures,” according to the statement.

Senate Democratic aides say closer coordination with the White House would be important to keeping their majority, even though Republicans will try to tie vulnerable Democratic incumbents to Obama in states, such as Arkansas and North Carolina.

Katie Beirne Fallon, the newly promoted White House legislative affairs director, has held listening sessions with Senate and House leaders, and senior White House adviser Phil Schiliro has been in regular communication with lawmakers and senior aides. 

— Amie Parnes contributed reporting.