House Democrats ratchet up fighting words against Trump

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

BALTIMORE (AP) — House Democratic leaders on Wednesday abandoned earlier assertions that they would look for some areas of compromise with President Donald Trump and insisted they will fight him at every turn.

Emboldened by protests and an angry, motivated voter base, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats took pains Wednesday to make it clear that they will do everything they can to stand up to Trump.

“As long as the president continues down this path, there is nothing Democrats can work with him on,” Pelosi said at a news conference, sharpening her words from the early days of Trump’s administration, when she repeatedly said they would look for common ground where they could find it.

“Fighting, love that word,” she said at the opening of the Democrats’ annual retreat.

House Democrats have appeared split in recent weeks about whether they should fight Trump on everything — similar to what Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did in the Senate on much of former President Barack Obama’s agenda — or try to work with Trump on some issues in an attempt to win back more conservative Democratic voters who had abandoned the party and voted Republican in the presidential election.

Less than three weeks into Trump’s presidency, New York Rep. Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Democratic conference, said he has never seen his party so unified in a single goal: to fight Trump and congressional Republicans.

“The fight before us though is a difficult one, the list is long,” Crowley said. “These are the fights that will define generations to come and quite frankly determine the fate of our country.”

Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, piled on. “No one in America ought to think that this party is in retreat,” Hoyer said, noting that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton won nearly 2.9 million more votes than Trump.

In reality, Democrats have little leverage to assert their will in a House where the majority party has all the power. That’s unlike the Senate, where minority Democrats can slow nominees and block legislation.

The leaders said they will continue to get the message out to voters about what they feel Trump is doing wrong, including his executive order banning refugees and entry to the U.S. from seven majority-Muslim countries and Republican efforts to repeal and replace Obama’s health care law. Pelosi noted large protests around the country and in airports after the ban was imposed.

“The American people are getting the message. We have to make sure they know on a day-to-day basis how this affects their daily lives,” she said.

At the three-day retreat, Democrats will attend sessions titled “Listen, Talk and Tweet to Seniors,” ”A 2016 Review: What Role Did Guns Play?” and “Rumors, Truth and Reality: Political Misinformation in the Modern Day.”

On Thursday, members have the option of sitting in on one of several sessions aimed at winning back working-class and middle-class voters, many of whom supported Trump in the election. Leaders have repeatedly emphasized that focus going forward.

California Rep. Linda Sanchez, the vice chair of the Democratic conference, called the retreat “kicking a little ass for the working class.”

Democrats will also have some star power at the retreat. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will address the group at dinner Thursday, though no specific topic was given. TV host Chelsea Handler will speak at the closing program Friday.