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House GOP Uses Retreat to Lay 2012 Plans

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
Speaker John Boehner told his Conference at its annual retreat last week that the GOP will focus on messaging and avoid internal fights going into the 2012 election cycle.

“I think [it] makes it very timely for the public to understand that if Republicans are given the White House and we control Congress, we’re going to do everything we can to do away with Obamacare,” Cantor added.

Boehner also made clear that he plans to use the House’s oversight functions more aggressively this year to hammer the administration and push the GOP line.

“Our obligation is to use our majority to shine a spotlight on the places where the president’s failed policies are getting in the way of American job creation. And that means stepped-up oversight of the Obama administration’s policies,” he told Republicans on Saturday.

Leaders are also hoping this year’s schedule, which theoretically should not involve as many government shutdown fights, will help keep Members in line.

“It’s a much different landscape this year than last year,” Cantor said.

“I am much more confident this year that you’re not going to be in a reactive mode the way you were last year” because of the debt ceiling and repeated spending fights, he added.

Cantor also predicted there would be no government shutdown fights this year.

“We’re not going to have one this year. We’re not going to have a government shutdown,” he said. “Thirty days out [from the election] ,,, people don’t want to see a shutdown.”

Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (Ky.) indicated he would look to quickly move through the chamber spending measures to avoid a September battle over keeping the government funded.

“On appropriations, we’re going to go all-out early,” Rogers said Saturday.

Still, it remains unclear how successful Boehner and Cantor will be in suppressing their Conference’s desire for ugly brawls with the administration.

One rank-and-file Member said the negotiations on the payroll tax cut extension could spark a new round of internal fighting, noting that although it was calm now, “it’s because it’s not in our laps yet.”

And even during a largely feel-good weekend, there were those expressing concern with the direction of the Conference.

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher used the retreat to push some off-topic proposals. In a rare unscripted moment, the California Republican blitzed the media filing room unannounced to tout his pamphlet of “creative ideas,” such as commercializing space travel — plans that he said weren’t being given a hearing given the top-down structure of the retreat.

“A lot of the issues we face are budget-related, so they tend to be discussions on how money is spent, not on how we can restructure the way we do things in a creative way and that can capture the imagination of the people,” he said.

Still, he acknowledged the importance of consistency in the Conference and said he has “never seen it more unified than this.”

“The way to get people together is to target a common enemy and go for it,” Rohrabacher said.

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