LEESBURG, Va. — Assertive even as he preached humility, President Obama vowed to confront Republicans on the deficit and urged Democrats on Thursday to stick with him on guns and immigration. He scorned a GOP plan to avoid imminent across-the-board spending cuts, declaring flatly: ‘‘we’re on the right side of this argument.’’
In an address meant to motivate House Democrats during their annual retreat, Obama cast his overarching agenda as one driven by the fundamental goal of giving every American a fair shot at success. He conceded that Democratic lawmakers, the minority in the House of Representatives, would encounter obstacles and irritations, but called on them to stick to their principles in their confrontations with Republicans.
‘‘It won’t be smooth,’’ Obama said. ‘‘It won’t be simple. There will be frustrations. There will be times when you guys are mad at me, and occasionally I’ll read about it.’’ Lawmakers exchanged glances and chuckled knowingly.
Curbing gun violence and overhauling immigration laws will be difficult, he said, and he acknowledged that lawmakers will confront contrasting attitudes about both issues in different regions of the country.
Hagel’s nomination is still
on track, key Democrat says
WASHINGTON — Chuck Hagel’s nomination to be the next defense secretary remains on track despite Republican demands for additional information about his paid speeches and business dealings, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Thursday.
The GOP requests dealt a setback to President Obama’s pick, forcing the committee to announce late Wednesday it would postpone a vote on the nomination. A new date has not been set.
Senator Carl Levin of Michigan, chairman of the committee, said the additional requests were extraordinary and that Hagel had complied with the panel. He said he would move ahead with a vote as soon as possible.
‘‘We can’t not vote because there’s dissatisfaction. That would be endless,’’ Levin said. ‘‘We’re going to schedule a vote.’’
Levin said he was confident the Senate would confirm Hagel, pointing out that none of the Senate’s 55 Democrats oppose the nominee, that two Republicans have announced their support, and that several other GOP senators have said they would not back a filibuster.
The White House said Thursday that Hagel has given lawmakers exhaustive information but will continue to disclose more to the Senate panel considering his nomination.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Hagel has turned over all available speech transcripts but that some of his speeches were never transcribed. He said it’s vital that the Pentagon position be filled and urged the Senate to approve Hagel quickly.
Republicans had complained in a letter that Hagel didn’t sufficiently answer questions, including details on all compensation of more than $5,000 that he had received over the past five years. They also pressed him on his recent speeches, which groups he has addressed, and on donors to those groups.
Senator says he tried to help donor but did no wrong
WASHINGTON — Senator Robert Menendez acknowledged Thursday that his office contacted US health agencies in a way that would help the biggest political donor to his reelection, the same eye doctor whose private jet Menendez used for two personal trips to the Dominican Republic.
The senator denied that he sought to intervene improperly in billing disputes between the doctor and the government.
Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, said he contacted the US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to ask about billing practices and policies. The contacts came during a dispute between the agency and Dr. Salomon Melgen, a longtime friend and campaign supporter of Menendez. The FBI searched Melgen’s offices last week.
‘‘The bottom line is, we raised concerns with CMS over policy and over ambiguities that are difficult for medical providers to understand and to seek a clarification of that and to make sure, in doing so, providers would understand how to attain themselves,’’ Menendez said.
The senator called federal health officials in 2009 and met with them again in 2012.