Cambridge, Maryland (CNN) - Trumpeting the American dream-theme "Make it in America," House Democrats gathered for their annual retreat Friday to focus on fulfilling the pledge that Democrats will make it back in 2012.
In a press conference following a meeting of the Democratic issues conference, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi outlined the goals for "Make it in America," which includes the "Drive for 25," designed to gain 25 Democratic seats in the 2012 elections and win back the majority.
Last fall's walloping by the GOP in the 2010 mid-term elections is still clearly on the minds of the members, although Pelosi used the retreat's theme to strike a balance between partisan politics and economic reality.
Recalling Thursday's ceremony recognizing the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's inauguration, Pelosi invoked the former president's charge to get "America moving again."
"We've come out of a decade with a deep, deep, deep recession that would have been a depression without the actions taken by President Obama and the Democratic Congress," she said.
Pelosi described "Make it in America" as an effort to achieve personal fulfillment for America, economic strength and national security.
Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Democrats plan to offer constructive proposals in the "Drive for 25" and "hold the GOP accountable when they do not support the interests of the middle class."
Paul Lindsay, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee quickly responded to the campaign.
"House Democrats will need more than a empty sales pitch to earn back the trust of middle-class families," he said. " … Behind this cheap marketing slogan are the three words Americans have no interest in seeing ever again - Speaker Nancy Pelosi."
Democratic Congressman Chris Van Hollen, outgoing chairman of the DCCC, had the strongest words for the Republicans. He expressed doubt that the GOP majority is earnest in "moving the country forward," and accused the opposing party of being reckless with the deficit.
"Unfortunately, the first few weeks have not presented a very good sign," he said. " … In their efforts to try and repeal the health care bill … they have, in a very short period of time, blown a big additional hole in the deficit. The CBO, the nonpartisan independent budget office … says over the next ten years they just in a very short order added an additional $230 billion dollars to the deficit."
"That is not fiscal responsibility … it is a recipe for budget anarchy and fiscal chaos," he continued.
Also, during the press conference, Pelosi struck a lighter note when asked who she planned to sit next to during the State of the Union address on Tuesday. In light of a recent call for both parties to abandon their tradition of sitting apart, she responded, "Members can sit anywhere they choose … I've been sitting next to Vice President (Dick) Cheney for a long time."
President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak privately to the retreat Friday evening. But Vice President Joe Biden gave public remarks Friday afternoon that were less of a rallying cry and more reassuring.
Opening with an admission that he'd been tasked with addressing the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, Biden asserted that he believes "we're on our way… to end this war responsibly."
"And it is going to be very hard with your new Republican colleagues, but I am gonna, I warn you, and you know it, I am going to be back to you to trying to figure out ... how we can finish this without the military because it is time for its role to be done," the vice president said.
Biden may have saved the pep talk for behind closed doors. He joined the retreat after his public remarks for a private talk. Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Emmanuel Cleaver declined to elaborate on what was said, saying it was "not for public consumption." But, he disclosed, Biden told the group, "I am not speaking as Joe Biden the VP, I'm speaking as Joe Biden."
Separately, speaking of shooting victim Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Arizona, the vice president said, "One of the things about this family is we live each other's losses … this is personal."