Days before members of Congress depart the Capitol to return home for the August recess, President Obama held separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Democrats.
The primary goal of the meetings, part strategy session, part pep rally, was to ensure that the lawmakers and the White House are on the same page during this critical month. Topics ranged from the economy and jobs to voting rights.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield stressed how important the president's participation and leadership will be as Congress tries to put together a response to the Supreme Court's Voting Rights Act decision and states like Texas and North Carolina that almost immediately began to implement "some very radical voting changes."
"He pledged his full support but also said we shouldn't lose sight of [other available remedies] for discriminatory voting changes," Butterfield said.
The president also was asked about what action should be taken in light of his recent poignant remarks in response to the George Zimmerman verdict and Black males in general.
"He said we need to look at and change the criminal justice system and laws that lead to Stand Your Ground type situations. He also said we need to nourish our young Black men and people in general so they know they can be all they can," said New York Rep. Gregory Meeks.
Meeks said that the discussion also focused on the importance of hammering home the message of job creation and growing the economy from the middle class out as opposed to from the top down.
"The president talked about what his expectations for the August recess and issues he wants to talk about like the Affordable Care Act, the voting issue and others and make sure we're all on the same page when we go home," added Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Marcia Fudge.
How receptive voters are to the Democratic message is important in part because Congress faces a Sept. 30 deadline to approve a budget plan and raise the debt ceiling. But as in previous years, there will likely be a bruising battle over spending cuts and revenue increases, with Republicans demanding cuts equal to the amount the nation's borrowing limit is raised. Whichever side builds the most support will also have the most leverage at the negotiating table.
According to Fudge and other lawmakers, this is one area in which Obama plans to stand his ground.
"He did make it clear that he will not be giving in to Republican demands on the debt ceiling," Fudge said.
Obama also sought to soothe members nervous about the impact of issues like the Affordable Care Act and whether an immigration reform bill will make it to his desk.
"You're on the right side of history," he reassured them.
There was cake. House Democrats presented Obama, who turns 52 on Sunday, with a birthday gateau decorated with chocolate icing and a confectionery presidential seal.
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(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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