WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Congressional Republicans spent the second day of their retreat at the Greenbrier resort hearing from fellow lawmakers and members of the Trump administration about what should be on the GOP’s agenda this year.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., see the party as united, but the remark comes as questions loom over the likely publication of a classified memo regarding the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation.
Republicans and members of the administration, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis, worked in multiple sessions to discuss legislative proposals for the next 11 months regarding infrastructure, workforce development and government reform.
U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said there are multiple issues she believes can get the support of Republicans and Democrats.
“I think a fix on immigration is critical. We need to solve the DACA problem and do a strong border wall,” she said. “I think infrastructure we can do. I think anything we do this year will be bipartisan, which is good.”
Trump spoke at a lunch Thursday, giving a 35-minute abridged version of his State of the Union address. Trump pushed his immigration proposal — which would open a path to citizenship for young immigrants, end the visa lottery system and fund a southern border wall — as well as touched on infrastructure, trade and the successful passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act last December.
“The priorities of Republicans in Congress are the priorities of the American people. We believe in strong families, and we believe in strong borders,” he said.
Trump also touched on prison reform, saying he would like to “help those who have served their time get a second chance at life.”
U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., said Congress will be focused this year on addressing infrastructure needs, adding he sees the president’s request for a package worth at least $1.5 trillion as feasible.
“It means roads. It means bridges. It means water, sewer, broadband connectivity,” he said. “The president even emphasized these private-public partnerships. That’s the aggregate amount of investment in transportation, but that doesn’t mean that that’s just taxpayer dollars.”
Capito said she wasn’t convinced the government could support a $1.5 trillion plan with a federal contribution of $200 billion.
“Does it skinny down your top number, or do you try to move the $200 billion up?” she told reporters about the price tag. “I have a feeling we’ll try to move the $200 billion up and find a way to pay for it.”
Capito also said she had hoped Trump would have touched on increasing broadband internet access and the opioid epidemic in his remarks this week.
“The president’s really got to come out strong with a defined plan here that has the money behind it,” she said of opioid addiction.
Trump declared the opioid crisis a national public health emergency in October, which did not set aside additional financial resources for actions to address the epidemic.
Press conferences and gaggles focused heavily on the anticipated release of a classified memo regarding the Russia investigation. Trump is expected to permit the release of the memo Friday, in which the note alleges misconduct by the FBI in its investigation into the relationship between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia. Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee drafted the memo, but Democrats have argued the release could damage national security.
Ryan said the memo does not indict the FBI and the Department of Justice, or dispute the work of Special Counsel Robert Muller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
“What it is is the Congress’ legitimate oversight to make sure that the FISA process is being used correctly and that if it wasn’t being used correctly, that needs to come to light and people need to be held accountable,” he said.
Capito said while investigations into Russia’s impact in the 2016 presidential election are distracting, the congressional committees and Mueller should move forward with their work.
As lawmakers were inside the Greenbrier, more than 300 protesters gathered outside of the resort to protest the Trump administration and its agenda. Eighteen organizations worked together to hold the rally, with a planning event held Wednesday night in Charleston.
Ryan Frankenberry, the state director of the West Virginia Working Families Party, said Republicans cannot push policies without consequences in the general election
“I think the one thing that we hope to accomplish is getting people back engaged in their local politics,” he said. “They need to know who their delegate is, who their state senators are, who their congresspeople are.”
Frankenberry added activists like him will not be silenced as their movement gains steam ahead of November.
“We confronted them outside of the bubble of the Beltway,” he said. “We were going to make sure that they knew we were there and that the people we represent knew that we were there making our voices heard.”
Jenkins will join Rep. David McKinley of West Virginia and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden of Oregon Friday to discuss the impact of the opioid epidemic and the committee’s investigation into distributors and pharmaceutical companies.
The committee — which McKinley serves as a member — recently announced out-of-state drug companies shipped more than 20 million prescription painkillers to two pharmacies in Williamson over a 10-year period.