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'Fight Smart,' Boehner Tells Senate GOP at Retreat

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call

Speaker John A. Boehner addressed the Senate Republican Conference at their annual retreat Tuesday, discussing ways the House and Senate can coordinate on policy and politics in the 113th Congress, two sources confirmed to CQ Roll Call.

One of several sessions in an all-day program in the Library of Congress’ Thomas Jefferson Building, Boehner’s talk highlighted Republicans’ need to present a united front in upcoming battles, from budget debates to an immigration overhaul.

According to Boehner’s prepared remarks, the Ohio Republican discussed how presenting a united front could maximize the GOP’s leverage in negotiating with the president and Senate Democrats.

He noted Republicans needed to pick their spots and “fight smart” on smaller battles as a way to achieve more in larger deficit reduction fights.

“One of the things House Republicans are coming to grips with after two years is that while we may be the majority in the House, we are a minority in Washington,” Boehner’s prepared remarks stated. “What that means is we need to pick our battles wisely, and ‘fight smart.’”

“It means our focus should be on ‘winning the issues.’ We may not win the policy outcome every time, but there’s no reason we can’t win the debate every time,” the remarks continued.

The speaker also vowed to coordinate on strategy with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and other GOP leaders moving forward.

“I meet with Leader McConnell regularly, and our staffs are in constant contact,” said Boehner, who was invited by Senate Republicans to speak Tuesday.

When asked whether Boehner addressed immigration or House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s remarks Tuesday on the issue, an aide to the speaker said he was sure Boehner “applauded” the efforts of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Other speakers at Tuesday’s retreat included Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies and David Winston of The Winston Group, two key Republican strategy and polling firms, according to a Senate GOP aide. The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes delivered the keynote address “on the media,” the same aide said.

Republicans were closely guarded about the details of their conversations, and access to hallways surrounding their meetings rooms in the Library of Congress was limited. Broadly, Tuesday’s talks focused on jobs and the economy as well as what Republican governors are doing in their respective states on these issues. The speeches from two top GOP strategists and pollsters suggest a campaign focus as well, with Republicans looking to win back the Senate majority in 2014.

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats traveled to Annapolis, where they, too, talked about strategy for the year ahead. President Barack Obama is scheduled to speak to their caucus Wednesday.

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