By JOSH LEDERMAN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is trying to sell Senate Democrats on his strategy for tackling immigration, gun control and a host of fiscal dilemmas.
Senate Democratic unity will be critical to Obama's prospects for enacting the ambitious agenda he's laid out for the start of his second term. Almost all the items on his to-do list face opposition from Senate Republicans – not to mention the even stronger opposition Obama is likely to run up against if and when the GOP-controlled House takes up those items.
Senate and White House aides are offering few details about Obama's appearance Wednesday at the Democrats' annual retreat at a hotel in Annapolis, Md., but Obama is expected to address senators before engaging in a candid discussion about the toughest issues ahead.
Obama is letting the Senate take the lead on crafting comprehensive immigration legislation, including a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. But he is using all the power that the presidency affords to implore lawmakers to act without delay.
A bipartisan Senate group has reached agreement on the broad outlines of such an overhaul, but a few thorny issues remain, including a possible guest-worker program and whether to delay steps toward citizenship until certain border-security measures are in place.
Gun control is another of Obama's priorities where the outcome may rest on whether Senate Democrats stick together in supporting him. Obama says he sees an emerging consensus behind his proposals in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., schoolhouse massacre, but some provisions he's pushing will make it tough for red-state Democrats and those up for re-election in 2014 to back him. Even the top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, has declined to say whether he'll back the most contentious aspect of Obama's package: a ban on assault weapons.
The retreat also offers Obama his first chance to pitch directly to senators his proposal for a quick fix to avert the sweeping spending cuts set to hit the military, domestic programs and the economy at large on March 1. Obama appealed to Congress Tuesday to pass a short-term set of spending cuts and tax changes to give lawmakers more time to hash out a broader deal.
House Democrats will hear from Obama at their annual retreat Thursday in Leesburg, Va.