House GOP to plan strategy on Shore

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON -- When House Republicans met at a luxury resort on Maryland's Eastern Shore a year ago, they worked to put together a legislative strategy that they hoped would enable them to hold onto the majority in the face of ethics scandals and frustration with the war in Iraq.

On their return to the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort in Cambridge, those who survived last fall's elections now are working out how to advance their agenda from the minority.


The annual retreat gives House Republicans the opportunity to meet privately on legislative plans and political strategy heading into the new session.

President Bush will address the conference tomorrow. A spokeswoman said he would share details of proposals in his State of the Union address.


"He'll discuss how they can find opportunities to accomplish important goals for the American people, including health care, energy and immigration," spokeswoman Emily Lawrimore said. "And you can also expect for him to continue to discuss the new way forward in Iraq."

For the first time, Bush also will address House Democrats at their annual retreat next week in Williamsburg, Va.

"Democrats appreciate the president traveling to address our issues conference," House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer of Southern Maryland said through a spokeswoman. "We look forward to not only hearing from the president but also having the opportunity to ask him a few questions."

In their first weeks in the minority, Republicans have been frustrated by Democratic rules that prevented them from offering amendments to the Democrats' "Six for '06" bills on raising the minimum wage, cutting interest rates on student loans and other popular measures.

Republican leaders who boasted that they would use amendments to pressure Democrats in vulnerable districts into voting against the party have seen their own members voting with the majority instead.

A spokesman for the Republican House Conference declined to go into details on the retreat, saying the purpose is allow members the privacy to speak their minds about the challenges ahead.

"It's safe to assume that there will be robust conversations taking place on the issues of the day: Iraq and certainly other issues," spokesman Ed Patru said.