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GOP Leaders Meet for Off-Site Strategy Retreat

Hoping to improve coordination across the Capitol, top House and Senate Republicans are gathering today for a rare bicameral leadership retreat.

Traditionally, the two chambers’ leaders take separate getaways before their full conferences go on their own retreats in January. This year, they decided to coordinate their efforts and will spend today through Thursday with Karl Rove and other White House aides to get the ball rolling for the 109th Congress at the Tides Inn in Irvington, Va.

Despite the fact that the GOP controls both Congress and the White House, the second session of the 108th Congress has been marked by the House and Senate’s inability to agree on several key pieces of legislation, including a fiscal 2005 budget, a highway bill, an energy bill and an intelligence reform package.

Republicans from both chambers hope that better coordination can help prevent history from repeating itself in 2005.

“It is important to understand where [the Senate] would like to go as well as what institutional pitfalls lie within their universe,” said House Republican Conference spokesman Greg Crist.

His counterpart at the Senate GOP Conference, Robert Traynham, gave a similar explanation for the bicameral gathering.

“There’s no question that the earlier you plan the better the planning is in general,” Traynham said. “I think you will see unprecedented coordination of the House and Senate.”

The two chambers’ leaders will meet separately today before gathering for a joint meeting Wednesday.

In addition to discussing their own priorities for next year, House and Senate GOP leaders will get a chance to query Rove and other administration officials on President Bush’s proposals. Social Security and tax reform are expected to top the agenda during both the retreat and the next Congress.

Traynham suggested that the “relaxed, informal setting” of a retreat might be more conducive to open discussion than a typical meeting in the Capitol would be.

If they find the time, Republican leaders will have plenty of opportunity for relaxation at the Tides, which they have completely taken over for the three-day retreat.

With no tourists or reporters on the premises, the lawmakers will be able to enjoy the resort’s well-known Golden Eagle Golf Club as well as a full range of spa services.

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