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Clinton, Senate Democrats Proclaim Unity Ahead of Party Convention

  • Michael Bowman

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton walks with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (L), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (3rd R), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (2nd R) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (R) as she arrives to meet with Senate Democrats during their luncheon gathering at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 14, 2016.

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton walks with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (L), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) (3rd R), Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) (2nd R) and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (R) as she arrives to meet with Senate Democrats during their luncheon gathering at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 14, 2016.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton proclaimed unity of vision and purpose after meeting with Senate Democrats — a caucus that is in the minority but hopes to capture the majority in November.

Clinton, who represented New York in the Senate from 2001-2009, said Thursday's meeting at the Capitol was "focused on the very positive difference that Democrats want to make in the lives of Americans, particularly when it comes to economic opportunity."

"[We are] really concerned with how we build a strong Democratic Party, not just for this election, but beyond. And I'm going to do everything I can to work with my friends and colleagues here to make that happen," Clinton added in brief comments to the news media.

Republicans won a Senate majority in 2014 that is now widely believed to be in jeopardy, as they are defending more than twice as many seats as Democrats in this election cycle.

Clinton's visit to the Capitol came one week after presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump sought to rally wavering House and Senate Republicans behind him.

‘Stronger together’

By contrast, Clinton has the support of all Senate Democrats heading into her party's national convention later this month, having secured the endorsement of her last remaining rival, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks with US Senate pages as she departs after meeting with Senate Democrats during their luncheon gathering at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 14, 2016.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks with US Senate pages as she departs after meeting with Senate Democrats during their luncheon gathering at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, July 14, 2016.

"We're united. We're stronger than ever. And we're stronger together," proclaimed Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski as she emerged from the meeting.

Mikulski dismissed new polls showing Clinton's lead over Trump evaporating and Trump, in some cases, pulling ahead.

"It's the polls going into the convention," she said. "We are focused on our message, our victory strategy, mobilizing our voters."

"She's going to be president," declared Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Some Republicans poked fun at the spectacle created by Clinton's arrival at the Capitol.

"Oh, Hillary's coming? It's a blessed day," quipped Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, who was the Republican Party's 2008 presidential nominee, dismissed what many perceive as greater unity among Capitol Hill Democrats than Republicans when it comes to their respective presidential nominees.

"I think the American people are equally disenchanted [with both candidates]," McCain told VOA.

Zika bill

Clinton's visit came as lawmakers rushed to finish business ahead of a seven-week recess, one of the longest in modern legislative history.

Congress is adjourning without having approved funding to fight the Zika virus, which became embroiled in a bitter partisan fight.

For the second time in as many weeks, Senate Democrats banded together to block a Zika package that Republicans had altered to deny funding to a leading women's health and abortion provider.

"Republicans chose to put the ideological battle against Planned Parenthood ahead of their responsibility as legislators to help fight Zika," said Democrat Patty Murray of Washington State.

Republicans countered that any objections Democrats had to the bill should take a back seat to the larger need to fight Zika, and that the legislation was the last change for Congress to act before the recess, which comes at the height of mosquito season in the United States.

"It's hard to understand how our Democratic friends continue to filibuster the funding needed to fight Zika," said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. "The compromise conference report offers the only way to get this done — now. Otherwise, what will they say to pregnant mothers this summer?"

Democrats responded by urging Congress to remain in session until Zika funding is approved.

"It's the longest Senate recess in more than 60 years. We'd like to stay and work," Reid said.

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