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House GOP Lands at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for Retreat

BALTIMORE — House Republicans rolled into Baltimore under tight security for their three-day annual retreat as Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) sought to turn the page on a difficult first year in the majority.

Flanked by police cruisers, motorcycles and helicopters from three separate police jurisdictions, the bulk of Boehner’s 242-Member-strong conference gathered in Charm City’s tony Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

Republicans are scheduled to hold a series of closed-door meetings from this afternoon through Saturday morning, focusing on the economy, the 2012 election and general operations of Congress.

But Boehner, who saw his Conference openly revolt against him in December over the payroll tax cut, is also clearly hoping to use the retreat to regain some level of control over his party: This evening, Hall of Fame Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs is scheduled to lead an hour-long session entitled “In the Huddle with Coach Joe Gibbs — Lessons on Teamwork,” according to a copy of the agenda obtained by Roll Call. Gibbs was also scheduled to host a Bible-study class tonight.

The rest of the schedule indicates the traditional cast of GOP characters will again be briefing the Conference on a variety of issues. Pollsters David Winston and Whit Ayres were scheduled to give a talk about the political landscape, while strategist Ed Gillespie and the National Review Institute’s Kate O’Beirne were set to lead a discussion entitled “Buckle Your Seatbelts: What to Expect in 2012.”

Friday’s sessions appeared to be heavy on the policy discussions, with Reps. Kevin Brady (Texas), Paul Ryan (Wis.) and Tom Price (Ga.) moderating discussions on the economy, budget and spending and health care policy in 2012.

Frank Luntz, who helped former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) reshape political language during the 1994 GOP revolution, was also scheduled to speak, while popular New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is Friday evening’s keynote speaker.

On Saturday, in addition to a discussion on ethics, lawmakers will attend a discussion of “House Oversight in 2012” led by William Burck of Weil, Gotshal and Manges and Emmet Flood of Williams and Connolly.

The festivities are scheduled to wrap up with an open-mic discussion when rank and filers are expected to speak their piece and could provide a key metric on how effective Boehner and his leadership team are in rallying the troops.

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