Pelosi: Democrats will hit campaign trail with a ‘spirit of optimism’

Pelosi: Democrats will hit campaign trail with a ‘spirit of optimism’

House Democratic leaders on Thursday defended their move to cut the legislative session short so lawmakers could return to the campaign trail.

In the wake of Republican attacks, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and her top lieutenants stood firmly behind their overhauls of healthcare, Wall Street regulation and student loan policies as both historic and fiscally sound.

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After a flurry of votes on Wednesday and a campaign strategy session with President Obama at the White House on Thursday, Pelosi struck an upbeat note to begin the final push to the November midterm elections.

“Our members left [Wednesday] evening in a spirit of optimism,” Pelosi said at a Capitol press conference.

With political analysts projecting big gains for Republicans in November, Democrats have found themselves subjected to a two-pronged attack heading into the elections.

For most of the 111th Congress, Republicans have criticized Democrats for an overly aggressive agenda that spent too much, regulated too much and only represented the interests of liberals.

In recent weeks, however, the GOP has denounced Democrats for abdicating central governing responsibilities by not passing a budget resolution and not extending expiring tax cuts before the election.

In a speech Thursday, House GOP Leader John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE (Ohio) said the Democratic-run House was in “a state of emergency.”

“The institution does not function, does not deliberate and seems incapable of acting on the will of the people,” BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerFormer Speaker Boehner's official portrait unveiled Key Republicans say Biden can break Washington gridlock From learning on his feet to policy director MORE said, castigating leaders for allowing lawmakers to head home without voting on the George W. Bush-era tax cuts.

Democratic leaders pushed back, quoting longtime political analyst Norm Ornstein, who earlier this year called this Congress “one of the most productive Congresses in history.”

Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), as he has repeatedly, pointed out that while Democrats did not pass a traditional budget blueprint, including deficit projections, Congress did approve a one-year budget enforcement resolution.

Pelosi also defended her decision to shorten the already abbreviated pre-election session, sending members home eight days early. The Speaker said the job of representative meant that House members had responsibilities both in Washington and in their home districts.

“The job is not just what is happening in Washington, D.C.,” Pelosi said.

House Democrats received support from the White House on their decision to postpone a vote on the expiring tax cuts. Press secretary Robert Gibbs blamed Republicans, saying they were “irresponsible and held the middle-class cuts hostage” in order to pass tax cuts for top earners.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, told reporters the leadership’s meeting with Obama featured talk of the party’s sales pitch to voters and what the president could do to help.



“He’s going to be crisscrossing the country, framing the choice for voters very clearly: continuing the progress we’ve made, or going back to the failed polices” under Republican control, Van Hollen said.


A White House official requesting anonymity said the president “discussed a handful of priorities that remain on the congressional agenda through the end of the year, including: making tax cuts permanent for middle-class families, ratifying the START treaty, passing a child nutrition bill and closing tax loopholes for companies that ship jobs overseas.”

The official added that Obama “reiterated his commitment to campaigning for Democratic candidates over the next five weeks.”

Earlier this year, tension emerged between House Democrats and the White House after Gibbs indicated there were enough seats in play for Republicans to grab control of the lower chamber.

Soon after those comments, House Democrats secured new promises from the administration on how it would help vulnerable candidates.

Democratic leaders on Thursday praised the White House’s campaign efforts.

Van Hollen said Obama had “been doing everything he should.”
 
Sam Youngman contributed to this report.