PHILADELPHIA – House Republican conservatives huddled here for the annual Heritage Foundation Members Retreat on Thursday, hoping to recharge their ideological batteries in advance of what is expected to be a bruising year in Congress and on the campaign trail.
The annual three-day conference, which traditionally has had a policy-heavy focus, has been designed by organizers to provide Members with a broad view of the current political landscape and underscore the ideological stakes of the looming election.
“The purpose of this is to re-energize folks to say, ‘The reason you gave up that career, the reason you gave up the attention you might have otherwise been able to provide for your family, the reason you believed it was important to run, those reasons are still important,’” said Republican Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price (Ga.), one of nearly 50 House Republicans in attendance.
“It’s been good to spend a few days with other conservative Members talking about first principles. It’s been good,” Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.) said.
“A lot of times you can’t see the forest for the trees. In D.C., we’re so busy, everything’s fast,” he added. “It helps you step back and really look at the big picture.”
Much of the conference’s agenda reads more like a history book, with panel discussions on the “first principles” of the nation’s Founding Fathers, talks on the history of the progressive movement and the role of the government in the economy.
The retreat allows Members to “talk about our past, talk about where we are and talk about where we want to be. ... Is where we are and where we want to be in line with what our Founding Fathers put in place?” Southerland said.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.