- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2013

President Obama emerged from closed-door meetings with House and Senate Democrats on Wednesday with a new mantra for his focus the rest of this year: “Jobs. Middle class. Growth.”

With Congress poised to leave for a five-week summer vacation at the end of this week, Democrats wanted to huddle and make sure they were on the same page before tackling the major spending and debt fights looming.

“One thing is very clear as we get into debates this fall — we are united,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters after the Democratic Caucus met with Mr. Obama in the lunch hour.

The president had met with House Democrats earlier in the day.

Congress is leaving town for its vacation without the urgency that usually characterizes the last week before summer break — particularly in the first year of a new Congress. In 2011, lawmakers were scrambling to avert a debt crisis, and in 2009 they were trying to find the funds to replenish the Cash for Clunkers stimulus program.

This year, however, the deadline fights are all coming later, leaving both chambers to clean up some regular business before fleeing the stifling summer days that characterize Washington in August.

Democrats and Republicans have both signaled the battle lines for the upcoming fights: The GOP says it will not accept another debt increase without winning concessions, while the White House says it’s done negotiating over spending cuts that it says are keeping the economy down.

Wednesday’s latest growth figures suggest that there is plenty of room for work.

The economy grew at a rate of 1.7 percent, measured by gross domestic product, between April and June. But the bad news came in the January to March period, which saw its growth tally revised downward from 1.8 percent to just 1.1 percent.

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