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Obama Rallies Senate Democrats, Defends Trade Policies

U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to rally congressional Democrats following a series of election losses in key states. Democrats are pushing him to take more action to create and protect American jobs.

President Obama is telling Senate Democrats to stay focused, and not be distracted by the political noise that surrounds them in Washington.

"We have got to finish the job, even though it is hard," said President Obama.

At a strategy meeting near Capitol Hill, the president said simply: "We must lead."  

He told members of his party that they have plenty of work to do, and he urged them to remain faithful to their principles, and to reach out to Republicans when they can.  He acknowledged the record for bipartisanship in the past year has not been good.

"We will call them out when they say they want to work with us and we extend a hand, and get a fist in return," said Mr. Obama.

The format for the meeting with Senate Democrats was similar to one he held last Friday with House Republicans - an unprecedented event where the president made remarks and then engaged in an extended question and answer session with the opposition live on national television.

Many of the Senate Democrats who questioned Mr. Obama face strong challenges in their bid for re-election.  And most, like Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, asked about the economy.

Specter represents a state that has long relied on its manufacturing base.  He urged the president to take a tougher stand on trade with China.

"We have China violating international law with subsidies and dumping, really a form of international banditry," said Arlen Specter.

President Obama responded with a defense of his trade policies, saying he is determined to enforce trade laws while opening up new markets for American exports.

"Our future is going to be tied up with our ability to sell products all around the world, and China is going to be one of our biggest markets, and Asia is going to be one of our biggest markets," said President Obama.

The session with Senate Democrats was part of an outreach by the president to his party, the political opposition and an increasingly anxious public.  It continues next week when the president hosts what is expected to be the first in a series of regular monthly meetings with the bipartisan congressional leadership. 
 

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