Colleague Jean Marbella reports:
More than 200 members of the new Republican House majority begin arriving in Baltimore on Thursday for a three-day retreat that will focus on what GOP members say are their key issues for the coming year: jobs creation and reduced government spending.
The conference, typical of the kind of gathering both parties at the start of a new Congress, comes in the wake of the shootings in Tucson last weekend that killed six people and gravely injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
The attack touched off a debate on whether the highly charged political atmosphere of the last several years contributed to the violent act. The House voted unanimously Wednesday to approve a resolution Wednesday honoring Giffords, a Democrat, and the shooting victims, even as lawmakers gingerly try to determine how to proceed with business after such a traumatic event.
The November elections swept 84 new GOP members into the House, tipping the majority from Democratic to Republican. The gathering in Baltimore, called the Congress of Tomorrow Issues Conference, will focus on the House Republicans' "Pledge to America," a governing agenda that calls for tax cuts, reduced spending and the repeal of health care reform act.
The Republicans will meet in the district of Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes. House Democrats will meet next week on the Eastern Shore, in the district of Republican Rep. Andy Harris.
Among those who will be speaking to the Republicans are at least two possible 2012 presidential candidates, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. Also attending will be Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has raised his national profile enough lately to generate speculation that he, too, is considering a White House run.Other guests include Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, former Sen. Phil Gramm; former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt, columnist George Will and radio host Dennis Prager.
The representatives will not be cooped up inside conference rooms all day. On Thursday, the group is scheduled to tour of Fort McHenry.