July 29, 2008, 7:43 pm
Obama to House Democrats: ‘This Is Your Moment’

Sarah Lueck reports on Congress.

Sen. Barack Obama paid an upbeat visit to House Democrats, his first meeting with the full group of lawmakers whose fortunes are tightly tied to his this fall. “This is your moment,” he told them.

The Democratic presidential candidate told the group that the positive response he received in Germany and the rest of Europe was “not about him,” said House Democratic Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina. Rather, Obama said he was a “symbol of the possibility of America returning to our best traditions.” Lawmakers gave that remark a standing ovation.

Obama told House Democrats can help him succeed in the presidential race by extending his reach in the country, and lawmakers left the meeting with hope of teamwork on the campaign trail that would benefit both sides. “I think there are a series of of meetings into August about surrogate opportunities,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. “The message is, ‘We need you, so we need to work together.’”

In the question and answer session, Rep. Adam Schiff of California asked whether the Illinois senator would consider appointing a “team of rivals” to his cabinet, such as Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The question prompted some booing and hissing from the audience, according to a Democratic aide. Obama responded that it’s premature to say who he would name to his cabinet and that his job now is to get elected.

Other questions were on the nation’s need for infrastructure needs, the budget deficit and Obama’s assessment of Iran after his travels in the Middle East.

Obama said the deficit could be narrowed by stopping the Iraq war, ending tax cuts for the wealthy and bringing down levels of obesity to 1980s levels to keep Medicaid costs in check.

He addressed reporters briefly after the meeting and then walked away with his arm around House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California.

Pelosi said after the meeting, “Thank you, Senator Obama. Yes we can.”