Republicans wrap policy retreat with Trump looming large

Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 1:30 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - House Republicans finished a three-day retreat in Orlando, Florida Wednesday. The annual House GOP policy retreat consisted of close-door meetings and press gaggles as they ready their moves on big ticket legislation in Washington. But former President Donald Trump’s legal troubles stole some of the spotlight in the Sunshine State.

Over the weekend the embattled former president speculating about his imminent arrest, calling for protests if it happens.

“It wouldn’t hurt if people showed up and said hey we support President Trump….But I think we’ll have a protest at the ballot box in a couple years,” said Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.).

A common refrain from Republicans at the retreat: protest with votes. The drama eclipsed policy at times in Orlando as the party discusses its recently introduced energy package and strategy over a coming debt limit standoff that could lead to a default on U.S. debt.

“The reforms that are going to be necessary before we’re going to agree to raise the debt limit have to be more substantial. Balanced budget, amendments to the Constitution…we’re talking about things that are structural that are going to avoid this from happening in the future,” said Rep. Ben Cline (R-Virg.).

Cline says Republicans will release their budget in the coming weeks that outlines spending cuts, a GOP demand for agreeing to raise the debt limit.

With Democrats still wielding power in the Senate and White House, it is unclear how much of the Republican agenda will see the light of day. Like H.R. 1 - a massive energy package.

“Democrats will have a tough time explaining why they don’t support American energy, American resources, and American jobs,” said Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.).

Westerman chairs the Natural Resources Committee and is helping to spearhead the legislation. The bill calls for streamlining energy projects and unleashing American energy as Republicans say. Democrats in the Senate call the bill a wish list for big oil and dead on arrival.

“Whether this bill passes the Senate or not, we can control what we do in the House. We’re going to pass a robust energy package. This is just step one,” said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC).

Lawmakers will confront these issues as they return to Washington for the rest of the week. A series of hearings on the proposed budget are scheduled.