LEESBURG, Va. – President Barack Obama predicted a tough road ahead as he urged House Democrats on Thursday to stick to their principles on guns, immigration and the economy in legislative fights with Republicans.
He told lawmakers at their annual retreat in suburban Virginia that one fundamental question will guide his second-term policies: Do they give everyone a fair shot at success.
"It won't be smooth. It won't be simple. There will be frustrations. There will be times when you guys are mad at me, and occasionally I'll read about it," Obama said.
He asked fellow Democrats to remember what led them to turn to public office in the first place — a wish to improve their communities. "If we keep that in mind every single day," he said, "I have no doubt that we will continue the extraordinary progress that we've made already."
The president also tried to offer hope to Democrats tired of being the minority party in the House.
"As a byproduct of doing that good work and keeping that focus, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker again pretty soon," he said. The California Democrat was speaker until Republicans took control of the chamber in 2010.
Previewing his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Obama mentioned topics such as job creation, education, clean energy and taxes and spending.
He said he still want to achieve a broad budget deal with Republicans. But he brushed off a GOP plan to avoid looming across-the-board spending cuts, saying the plan would not ask enough of the wealthy while putting all the burden on older people and disabled children.
"If that's the choice we've got, I promise you we can win that debate because we're on the right side of this argument," Obama said.
After Obama's brief public remarks, reporters were taken out of the room and the president took lawmakers' questions in private.
Obama met privately for more than two hours with Democratic senators on Wednesday.
The White House said the president spoke briefly, took questions from 10 senators, then spent an hour chatting with them in smaller groups. Obama's spokesman, Jay Carney, said the session was focused on coordinating what the senators are doing with the administration's own efforts to promote Obama's priorities.
Also Wednesday, the Republican-controlled House voted to require that the president submit a budget that balances the federal ledger. The bill was symbolic, meant as a taunt to the president. While it has little chance in the Senate, 26 House Democrats did support it.
In the Senate, Democrats hold the majority and can be far more effective at driving Obama's legislative agenda. But a unified Democratic caucus in the House is critical on issues that might divide Republicans, such as an overhaul of immigration laws or even some fiscal policies.
Carney has said Obama and lawmakers have made "significant progress" toward a bipartisan deal on immigration. The Senate has taken the lead assembling comprehensive legislation, including a path to citizenship for the nation's estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.
On gun control, many Democrats are reluctant to embrace Obama's call for banning certain weapons. But Obama has argued that other proposals, such as universal background checks, have broad public support.
On fiscal issues, Obama wants Congress to pass a short-term package of spending cuts and tax revenue. That would give lawmakers more time to negotiate a broader deficit-reduction deal and avoid deep spending cuts that are set to take effect March 1.