Washington (CNN) - President Obama visited the House Democratic Issues Conference in Cambridge, Maryland on Friday, delivering what amounted to a quick 10-minute version of his State of the Union Speech, and thanking lawmakers for sticking with him through some tough legislative battles.
Telling the gathering of congressional Democrats that he’s “proud” of them, Obama repeatedly praised the group for their unity on legislative fights with the House Republican majority.
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“This caucus has shown time and time again, under the most difficult circumstances, the kind of courage and unity and discipline that has made me very, very proud,” Obama said.
He added later, “When you guys are unified (and) you guys stick together, this country is better off.”
The President took something of a victory lap on his party’s success in securing passage of a clean increase in the nation’s debt limit earlier in the week. He also highlighted Democrats’ successful opposition to dozens of Republican attempts to repeal or weaken the Affordable Care Act.
“We are going to keep on pushing on this to make sure that here in America everybody can enjoy the kind of security and peace of mind that good quality health insurance provides,” Obama said.
“And I just want to say thank you for all of you hanging in there tough on an issue that I think 10 years from now, five years from now, we're going to look and say this was a monumental achievement that could not have happened had it not been for this caucus.”
Pointing to new enrollment numbers released earlier in the week, the President boasted that his administration had “slightly exceeded” its enrollment targets for the month of January, and emphasized that millions of people are now benefiting from the law.
“We're starting to see data already that the uninsured rate is coming down,” Obama said.
Going forward, the President said Democrats need to continue the fight for an increase in the nation’s minimum wage and a comprehensive immigration reform bill as soon as possible, rather than wait until after the midterm elections as House Speaker John Boehner has publicly preferred.
“Everybody here is an elected official and we can all appreciate the maneuverings that take place, particularly in an election year,” Obama said.
“But when it comes to immigration reform, we have to remind ourselves that there are people behind the statistics, that there are lives that are being impacted, that punting and putting things off for another year, another two years, another three years, it hurts people. It hurts our economy. It hurts families.”
After his opening remarks, the press was ushered out so the President could field questions from lawmakers in attendance.
Behind closed doors in a question and answer session with the caucus, Obama discussed a broad range of topics, including minimum wage, unemployment assistance, Obamacare, immigration, Afghanistan, and Syria, according to two Democratic aides in the room.
The aides said on both unemployment and immigration, Obama admitted there was a limit to what he could do with his executive powers.
Obama told House Democrats he was open to their ideas on how to get unemployment benefits legislation through Congress.
"I haven't been shy about making this an issue," he said, according to one of the aides.
That aide also said Obama encouraged Democrats to keep up pressure for comprehensive immigration reform.
Several Democrats and outside groups have raised concerns about the impact of these deportations – specifically on breaking up families. Obama defend his administration's policies saying, "We have actively changed policy to focus on folks with criminal records...relieve burdens on families," according to one of the aides.
The aides said no one raised trade promotion proposal – something Obama said is a priority, but which many progressive Democrats in the House oppose in current form – including Pelosi.
Addressing the same crowd earlier in the day, Vice President Biden took a much more partisan tone.
More than any time in history, middle class Americans now “overwhelmingly” support the Democrats’ policy proposals, the Vice President said. But lawmakers have been blocked from enacting those priorities by unreliable negotiating partners across the aisle.
“There isn't a Republican party, I wish there were,” Biden said. “I wish there was a Republican party. I wish there was one person you could sit across the table from, make a deal, make a compromise and know when you got up from that table, it was done. That's what Nancy (Pelosi) is able to do, that's what the President is able to commit to.”
CNN Senior Congressional Producer Deirdre Walsh contributed to this report.