WASHINGTON — Deliberating behind closed doors, President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats sought ways to keep their economic agenda for 2014 on track despite the encroaching distractions of a heated election year.
Obama and top aides spent more than 90 minutes Wednesday at a baseball stadium in Washington where Democratic senators were huddled for their annual retreat. A day earlier, Obama hosted House Democrats at the White House for a similar session aimed at rallying the party behind Obama's goals for the year.
Although the White House said neither session was focused on politics, the campaign by Democrats to protect their Senate majority and win seats in the House was not far from anyone's mind.
"He's the head of his party. Of course it's on his mind. But it is far from the only thing on his mind," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "What is principally on his mind is the opportunity available to us and available to him to advance an agenda that expands opportunity and rewards hard work."
At the private confab at Washington Nationals Park, Obama told senators he wants to see action this year to restore and expand economic opportunity for Americans, the White House said. Among Obama's priorities for Congress: a minimum wage increase to $10.10, an expanded tax credit for lower-income Americans and funding for educational programs.
Obama also emphasized how important it is that Democrats hold the Senate this year, a Senate Democratic aide who wasn't authorized to describe the private remarks and demanded anonymity told the Associated Press. Democrats also discussed new estimates about the economic impact of Obama's health care law that have provided political fodder to Democrats and Republicans alike.
Of the 53 Democratic senators, it's the nearly two dozen facing re-election this year who are causing jitters for Obama and the party. With control of the Senate at stake, many of those Democrats are actively seeking ways to distance themselves from a president who is deeply unpopular in their home states.