Obama rallies House Democrats around gun and immigration reforms

Rachel Rose Hartman

President Barack Obama on Thursday sought to rally House Democrats around the politically weighty issues of gun and immigration reforms in a speech to House Democrats. It was a preview of sorts for his State of the Union address, to be delivered on Tuesday.

"Obviously economic growth is a priority, but making sure that we're opening up opportunity for everybody is also important. And that's why immigration reform is so critical," the president said to applause from the audience of House Democrats gathered for a retreat at Lansdowne Resort in Lansdowne, Va. "I said this is going to be a top priority and an early priority in my administration. I am heartened to see Republicans and Democrats starting to be in a serious conversation about getting this done. Now is the time."

The president acknowledged there are some lawmakers for whom this will be an especially politically tricky issue because of their constituencies.

Those same regional political differences exist for the issue of gun reform, Obama later noted.

"Guns mean something different for somebody who grew up on a farm in a rural community than somebody who grew up in an inner city," he said. "They're different realities, and we have to respect them. But what we know is the majority of responsible gun owners recognize we cannot have a situation in which 20 more of our children or 100 more of our children or 1,000 more of our children are shot and killed in a senseless fashion."

The president conceded that it could be a tough slog for Congress to accomplish these reforms and that, at times, Democratic lawmakers will likely be "mad at" the president. But, Obama said, Democrats need to hold firm to their values and remember why they campaigned for Congress to achieve success.

"And as a byproduct of doing that good work and keeping that focus, I would expect that Nancy Pelosi is going to be speaker again pretty soon," Obama added, referring to House Democrats winning back their majority.

After his speech to lawmakers, the president conducted a question and answer session with the audience, which was closed to the press.