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House Democrats huddle amid House GOP chaos

Biden, Harris due at party retreat, which includes election strategy

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., left, laughs as he puts Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Joe Neguse, D-Colo., on the spot to answer a reporter’s question during the House Democrats' 2024 Issues Conference opening news conference in Leesburg, Va., on Wednesday.
House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., left, laughs as he puts Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Joe Neguse, D-Colo., on the spot to answer a reporter’s question during the House Democrats' 2024 Issues Conference opening news conference in Leesburg, Va., on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

LEESBURG, Va. — House Democrats gathered for an election year issues conference Wednesday against a backdrop of chaos for the Republican majority and lagging approval ratings for the president of their own party.

President Joe Biden is slated to address the caucus gathering at the Lansdowne Resort on Thursday afternoon, with Vice President Kamala Harris the headliner for Wednesday afternoon.

Asked about Biden’s disapproval ratings, Democratic Policy and Communications Committee Chair Joe Neguse offered a preview of polling about the unpopularity of the House GOP majority.

“It’s hard to find … any Congresses as unpopular as this Republican-led Congress in the modern history of our Congress, the most unproductive, literally since the Great Depression,” Neguse said. “The polls that we’ve seen and the polls that we’ll share with our caucus today indicate that the American public is deeply dissatisfied with the way in which Republicans have governed, or lack thereof, over the course of the last 13 months and the chaos, the confusion, the dysfunction.”

The Democratic leaders kicking off the conference were eager to contrast the apparent unity of their caucus with the Republicans in the majority, who had multiple unsuccessful votes Tuesday, including on an effort to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Rep. James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the assistant leader and a co-chair of the Biden-Harris 2024 campaign, pointed to the overwhelming support the president got from Democrats and younger voters in his home state’s primary on Saturday.

“When I talked to those young people, they were all in for Joe Biden, and I keep hearing that he’s lost the youth vote. I keep hearing he’s lost the Black vote. South Carolina increased Black participation in their primary by 30 percent. And Joe Biden came out of it with 96 percent of the vote. The proof is in the pudding,” Clyburn said. “I know that most of these headlines come from those people pretty proficient at tweeting and whatever else you do, but voters show up for Joe Biden.”

Suzan DelBene, the Washington Democrat who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that some of the party’s candidates would campaign with the president, but she noted that the presidential map for 2024 differs from the House target map.

“On the House side, we have, we have many, many different races across the country where we’re playing, and they’re all uniquely different. Some are in states like California, New York that are probably not going to be heavily contested on a presidential level, others will be. So we expect that candidates are going to run campaigns based on what they think is right for their district,” DelBene told reporters. “Some of those are gonna be in areas where you’re not going to see others come as much and some may be, and I think that really depends on the candidates.”

“He’ll be on the campaign trail with some I think,” DelBene said of Biden. “Like I said, it depends on where. They have their map where they’re going.”

The president himself was in New York City on Wednesday for campaign fundraising in Manhattan, which is not where the state’s battleground districts are. For example, both parties are spending millions ahead of the special election Tuesday to fill an open seat in the 3rd District, which covers part of Queens and Long Island.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Pete Aguilar noted the conference would include discussions of messaging heading into the 2024 election season.

“We are going to make our case to the American public and, and part of this conference is highlighting the steps that we have done the implementation work, on delivering job creation and investments in our community, the dollars that are going out to our communities in the in the short term as well,” the California Democrat said.

The vice president’s office initially asked media to RSVP for her discussion with Rep. Morgan McGarvey, D-Ky., but it was subsequently declared closed to the press.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is also among the key panelists during the retreat, which runs through Friday.

In addition to the president and the vice president, House Democrats are also huddling with National Economic Council Director Lael Brainard and senior officials from the cabinet. There’s also an assortment of outside Democratic allies on the agenda, including leaders of abortion rights organizations and labor leaders like UAW President Shawn Fain, whose union recently endorsed the president’s reelection.

“I think our message to the American public, but especially those … men and women who are working in our labor community is, you know look and judge us by the results,” Aguilar said, referring to funding for projects that will constructed with union labor.

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