CAMBRIDGE, Md. — House Democratic leaders, while anxious to avoid being hit by President Obama's "do-nothing Congress" verbal jabs, say they won't shy away from his record — or their own — during this election year.
"I think it's not only OK for the president to run against a 'do-nothing Congress,' I encourage it," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Hotel, where House Democrats were gathered for their annual strategy session.
"This isn't about politics, it's about the American people. I think he's doing the exact right thing, and I support him."
House Democrats also vowed to defend their record more vigorously this year than in 2010, when the caucus often shied away from key party platforms, such as the president's health care reform law, and suffered crushing mid-term election defeats.
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who addressed the lawmakers Thursday, said he told his fellow Democrats to be proud of their accomplishments and "regardless of where the winds are, stay and defend what you've done because you can't run away from them."
"We learned that in 2010 - all the [moderate] Blue Dog Democrats who voted for the health care bill and tried to act like it never happened learned [that] you can't run away from it," Mr. Rendell told reporters later. "Why didn't they stand and defend the health care bill?"
"That's called integrity - in that what you believe and what you say is the same thing," added Rep. Keith Ellison, Minnesota Democrat. "And you're always going to be more powerful if you're moving from a place of integrity."
Mr. Ellison said that while the Republican Party has fractured, as seen by the contentious GOP presidential primary race, "the Democratic coalition is tight, and we're pushing ahead."
Rep. Henry A. Waxman of California, the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said that while the country's ills are improving, "they're not where we want them to be."
"The president is doing all he can but is frustrated every step of the way by the Republicans in Congress," he said.
But Mr. Waxman said that optimism among House Democrats is higher than last year, boosted "by a feeling that we're getting our message across."
"There is a lot of enthusiasm," he said. "The thing we keep coming back to is we've got to reignite the America dream, build up the middle class and recognize that people want leadership, not just the mean-spirited campaign presentations we've seen from the Republicans."
Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden will address the caucus Friday during the final day of the closed-door retreat.
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