Team ‘captain’ Obama lays out battle plan for House Dems

Source: Eugene Mulero, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, February 8, 2013

LEESBURG, Va. — Previewing his upcoming State of the Union address, President Obama yesterday urged House Democrats to support energy-efficient programs during the 113th Congress.

Speaking at the Democrats’ policy retreat less than an hour outside of Washington, D.C., Obama reaffirmed a commitment to pursue an energy agenda during his second term consisting of less drilling for oil while developing more fuel-efficient factories and modes of transportation.

“I’m going to make sure that we’re focused on job creation here in America, and that means that we have an energy agenda that can make us less dependent on foreign oil,” Obama said. Such an “energy strategy,” as he put it, “would maintain our leadership well into the future.”

In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Obama is expected to double down on his inauguration speech, calling for renewable energy programs in various sectors and cutting back on technologies that emit considerable quantities of pollutants into the atmosphere, a senior aide told reporters.

Obama’s remarks signaled his drive to pursue ways to handle climate change through the remainder of his presidency, although overhauling immigration policies and curbing gun violence are expected to garner more attention this year.

House Democrats are strategizing their legislative agenda during private discussions at a posh resort near Dulles International Airport. Today, former President Clinton is scheduled to deliver closing remarks at the retreat.

Aside from specific legislative matters, Obama reminded his party he would work to avert looming across-the-board budget cuts, or a sequestration, set to kick in March 1. Earlier this week, Obama urged lawmakers to pass a package of smaller budget cuts to avert the cuts to federal agencies while each party works to reach a compromise on broader spending priorities (E&ENews PM, Feb. 5).

While a group of House Republicans has indicated they would not mind seeing a sequester take place, Obama and his supporters continue to sound the alarm against it.

“I am prepared, eager and anxious to do a big deal, a big package that ends this governance-by-crisis where every two weeks or every two months, every six months, we’re threatening this hard-won recovery,” Obama said.

After his brief public remarks, the president engaged members of his party about pressing the budgetary matters.

One freshman Democrat, who said he was not authorized to speak with reporters, said he welcomed the president’s views, primarily efforts to open up a path to citizenship for a greater number of undocumented immigrants. And, the lawmaker added, he hoped his House colleagues would pass a budget that does not affect entitlement programs

“We hope to move forward on programs that benefit all Americans,” the freshman Democrat said.

The president continues to insist that revenue increases be part of debt negotiations with Republicans, the main source of the partisan fight. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said his party would oppose any tax increases.

However, if Democrats stick together and see that budgetary affairs are resolved, Obama said, voters will propel them back into the majority in the House. That, he said, could lead to another crack at the speakership for California Democrat Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader of the House.

“I love Nancy Pelosi,” Obama told Democrats.

The president’s keynote address at the retreat appeared to inject a certain degree of enthusiasm into the House minority. While security personnel limited public access with lawmakers, and many members opted not to speak with reporters, their loud cheers during Obama’s address could be interpreted as a degree of support for the president’s plans.

“He’s the captain of America’s team,” said California Rep. Xavier Becerra, the House Democratic Caucus chairman. “I think we’re ready to tell America that the Democratic caucus of the House of Representatives is full of leaders.”