U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday predicted a "robust debate" ahead with Republicans, and the party's eventual presidential nominee, about the economy and future of the country. The president spoke at an annual gathering of congressional Democrats following a cross-country trip to underscore themes of his State of the Union address.
Cheers and a standing ovation greeted Obama in Cambridge, Maryland, where House Democrats met for three days to discuss their legislative game plan and sharpen their political message in this election year.
Relations between the president and his fellow Democrats often were strained in the first three years of his administration, amid difficult negotiations with Republicans over government deficit reduction and taxes.
Obama told members of the Democratic Caucus that the "tough votes" they took enabled progress made since the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009.
"Over the last 22 months we have seen 3 million jobs created, the most jobs last year since 2005, more jobs in manufacturing than we have seen since the 1990's. A lot of that has to do with tough decisions that you took," said Obama.
The president repeated key themes of his State of the Union address, including his call to ensure that all Americans have a "fair shot" in the economy, and "play by the same set of rules."
He said Democrats in the House, where majority Republicans have blocked many of his key jobs proposals, were willing to make tough cuts amounting to more than $2 trillion in deficit reduction.
As is often the case in a major election year, there is little expectation of being able to accomplish much legislatively in the months before Americans vote in November.
The Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, this past week blamed the president for the absence of compromise.
"While I have tried to reach out and work with the president, I can tell you that for the last four months since last Labor Day, the president has been in campaign mode every day," said Boehner.
But Representative John Larson of Connecticut, a key Democratic leader who introduced Obama at the conference in Maryland, said Republicans were to blame for the gridlock in Washington.
"You have made every attempt humanly possible to get them to bring your legislation that will put this country back to work, to the floor. We stand committed, we stand with you, to make that happen in this session of Congress," said Larson.
Addressing the same gathering earlier in the day, Vice President Joe Biden blasted congressional leaders for continuing to obstruct the president's efforts.
Biden said the 2012 election will present "stark contrasts" between President Obama's vision and Republicans, and predicted that obstruction would eventually backfire on them.
"Guess what? The American people are figuring it out. [That Republicans] reject the word, they reject the notion of compromise," said Biden.
Lawmakers addressed Friday by Obama also are nervous about their re-election chances amid ongoing struggles between the president and Republicans.
Obama said they need to find ways to work with Republicans, but vowed he will not stand for more obstruction.
"We have got to be right there ready to meet them. On the other hand, where they obstruct, where they are unwilling to act, where they are more interested in party then they are in country, more interested in the next election than the next generation, then we have got to call them out on it. We have got to call them out on it. We have got to push them," said Obama.
It will be a tough election, the president said, because many Americans have "lost faith in the capacity of Washington to get anything done."