- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 29, 2015

PHILADELPHIA — President Obama vowed Thursday to freely wield his veto power and confront the Republican-controlled Congress with an aggressive liberal agenda, as he rallied House Democrats to join him in the fight.

“I promise you I’m not going out the next two years sitting on the sidelines. I am going to be making the case every single day, and I hope you join me,” Mr. Obama said in the keynote address at the House Democrats’ annual issues conference.

His speech to lawmakers gathered in a ballroom at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel echoed the agenda he presented in his State of the Union address last week. This time, though, he egged on the friendly crowd to stand tough in support of Obamacare, deportation amnesty and what he calls “middle-class economics,” which entails higher taxes on the wealthy and businesses to pay for tax breaks and other benefits for poor and middle-class families.

Those same types of polices, he said, were responsible for the nation’s economic recovery, including falling unemployment, record job growth and a booming stock market.

“There is no economic metric that is not better than when I took office,” Mr. Obama said. “The record shows that we were right and middle-class economics does work. So the bottom line is this: We’ve got to make sure it continues to work.”

The president’s Republican critics have argued that the slow recovery from the Great Recession, the worst economic tailspin in more than 70 years, occurred in spite of Mr. Obama’s policies, not because of them.

Still, the president said the agenda he championed was an intrinsic part of what the Democratic Party stands for. Embracing it, he said, would propel the party’s comeback from disastrous elections in November, for which he said he was willing to take some blame.

The president’s remarks fell into a cadence reminiscent of his campaign speeches from 2008 and 2012, including a refrain in which he urged Democrats to say “yes.”

“One thing I’m positive about, when we are shy about what we care about, when we are defensive about what we’ve accomplished, when we don’t stand up straight and proud and say, ‘Yes, we believe that everyone in this country should have health insurance and we are glad that we are making that happen. Yes, we believe that families shouldn’t be torn apart and we are glad that we are fighting for immigration reform. Yes, we believe in middle-class economics and we don’t apologize for trying to make sure that some wonderful young man or young woman out there can actually afford to go to college even if their parents didn’t go,” the president said.

“We need to stand up and go on offense and not be defensive about what we believe in,” he said. “That’s why we are Democrats.”

Mr. Obama also promised to veto any bills passed by the Republican-led Congress that would repeal Obamacare, loosen Wall Street reforms or rescind his executive action that grants legal status and work permits to up to 5 million illegal immigrants.

“If that bill makes it to my desk, I’ll be happy to veto it,” he said.

He mocked House Republicans for announcing first legislation they plan to take up in February would be a bill to repeal Obamacare, saying they have tried more than 50 times to repeal his signature legislative accomplishment.

“I’ve lost count at this point,” he said.

He touted his upcoming budget, which he promises will boost spending by 7 percent — about $74 billion — split evenly between defense and domestic programs to end the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. He said a healthy economy and shrinking deficits made it possible.

The president’s fiery rhetoric dovetailed with the message, policy and political strategy adopted by House Democrats at the three-day conference, which was titled “Grow America’s Economy, Grow American Paychecks.”

Mr. Obama and his House allies have honed a message that attempts to appeal to middle-class voters with promises of higher wages and demonizes Republicans for siding with the wealthy elite and against working families.

Rep. Steve Israel of New York, who is in charge of developing the party’s political message as chairman of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said Republicans are vulnerable to attacks for their policies that protect the rich at the expense of middle-class Americans.

“When Mitt Romney stands up and talks about his concern for the middle class, that tells us how afraid they are of this issue. They know they lose and lose badly on this issue,” Mr. Israel told reporters earlier at the conference.

He said the strategy received broad support in the caucus, which has undergone a period of intense soul-searching after widespread loses in the midterm elections that gave Republicans complete control of Congress with a majority in the Senate and the largest majority in the House in nearly 100 years.

“The caucus is now absolutely united around, galvanized around and mobilized around creating the contrast between the Republicans, who will consistently protect and defend corporate tax loopholes for the wealthiest, and Democrats, who are going to be out there with the gloves on, fighting every day for middle-class economic growth and opportunities for people who are not in the middle class to get into it,” Mr. Israel said.

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