Harris huddles with House Democrats and stresses unity: ‘We have a lot of material to work with’

Vice President Harris huddled with House Democrats on Wednesday morning, urging lawmakers to adopt a simple strategy heading into the 2024 elections: Take credit for the legislative accomplishments of the last Congress.

“It’s on the unity of the agenda moving forward, appreciating the accomplishments of the 117th Congress and now making sure the public understands what we passed as it’s implemented,” Rep. Ami Bera (D-Calif.) said as he left the closed-door gathering in the Capitol basement.

Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.) offered a similar assessment, saying Harris stressed “unity” and “message discipline” to the now-minority Democrats. Her most memorable message, though, was a jab at the new Republican majority, he said, which struggled to elect Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the start of the month and is already feuding over its approach to the debt limit, Ukraine aid and the arrival of embattled Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.).

“One of her great lines was, ‘We have a lot of material to work with,'” Takano said. “My interpretation is that the extreme MAGA Republicans are giving us a lot of material to show contrast between the grace of the Democrats, the way we comported ourselves during the Speaker’s election, and that we’re going to stand together.”

Harris also promised Democrats that she and Biden will be active in traveling around the country to help lawmakers highlight the various local projects that originated from the Democrats’ legislative achievements of the last two years.

“There’s going to be a lot of visits to the districts around the country to underscore that,” Takano said.

Shortly after Harris left the meeting, the White House announced that Biden and Harris will travel to Pennsylvania on Feb. 3. The purpose of the trip, according to the notice, is to highlight “their work implementing the Biden-Harris economic agenda that continues to deliver results for the American people.”

With control of the House, Senate and White House, Democrats had enacted a host of massive legislative packages in the last Congress, some with bipartisan support. The list includes a huge bump in spending on infrastructure projects; an enormous tax, health and climate package; a big boost in funding to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic; and funding to bolster the domestic production of semiconductor chips.

While those bills were enacted in 2021 and 2022, the real-world effects of those laws will emerge more clearly as federal funding is shuffled out the door over the next two years heading into the 2024 elections.

“One of the things she really emphasized was that the next year or so is the implementation of all the things we did in the 117th Congress,” Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said after the meeting. “And that’s going to be really visible in our communities, when all of these bridges are fixed and the jobs we created through the bills that we passed.”

Harris did not address reporters entering or exiting the meeting.

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