Obama Praises Grassroots Army For ‘Doing God’s Work’

Urges Organizing For Action group to pursue minimum wage hike and Obamacare enrollment

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Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President Barack Obama addresses the National Organizing summit in Washington on February 25, 2014.

President Barack Obama rallied his grassroots base in support of a pared-down agenda Tuesday, addressing an “organizing summit” hosted by the issues group founded out of his former presidential campaign.

“You’re doing God’s work,” he told the roughly 300 invited donors, volunteers, and activists at the ornate Washington Mandarin Oriental Hotel for the Organizing for Action event, 13 months after the group was created.

But in contrast to his expansive message to the group in his three prior appearances, Obama had just two requests: to fight for an increase in the minimum wage, and to keep on enrolling Americans in the Affordable Care Act’s health exchanges. It was the latest indication that the group’s agenda—like the president’s—has been scaled back to more manageable tasks after a scatter-shot 2013. Efforts to pursue immigration reform and gun control legislation, centerpieces of the group’s activity last year and a key motivator for its supporters, were absent from the president’s remarks.

“Let’s get that minimum wage done and give America a wage,” Obama said. “Let’s get people signed up and make sure that everyone has coverage.”

Obama credited the group with helping the healthcare exchanges reach 4 million enrollees since the beginning of October. “Four million people have already signed up because of you,” he said.

Much of the summit focused on the past, with former White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes recounting the highlights of the Obama first term. The president’s former campaign manager Jim Messina rallied the troops, calling them “the reason why millions of Americans have healthcare, the reason why millions of Americans can serve in the military, the reason why we’re going to pass immigration reform.” On this last issue, Messina encouraged the group to “take this fight directly to Congress,” the same place it has been stymied for more than a year.

The group raised $26 million in 2013, but has come under fire from Democrats for shifting resources away from the midterm elections this fall. OFA Executive Director Jon Carson, though, predicted that the group’s class of fellows would be “the pipeline of talent into the progressive community for a very long time.”