WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The second day of the congressional Republican retreat at the Greenbrier resort began Thursday with a joint press conference by South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Washington state Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers.
Thune and McMorris Rodgers, who serves as Republican Conference Chairs of their respective chambers, said they are looking to use this year’s summit as a point to organize and push policies for the year, similar to how Republicans passed tax overhaul legislation in 2017.
“We believe that working together — House, Senate, (the Trump) administration — that this can be a very productive year for the American people,” Thune said. ‘We think the lives of the American people benefit when their elected representatives work together in a way that will lead to better progress, better jobs, higher wages and a higher standard of living.”
Lawmakers have a week to pass an agreement to avoid what would be the second government shutdown of this year. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., agreed to negotiate a deal that would protect young immigrants affected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
“The question is a much bigger, broader debate about immigration which encompasses many of the other issues that have been attended to that debate for a long time,” Thune said.
Thune added the base bill has yet to be seen, but he thinks lawmakers from both parties consider the matter a top priority.
“There are obviously disagreements about what it will include, and I think the key is going to be figuring out something that not only gets 60 votes in the Senate but pass the House of Representatives and then be something that the president would sign into law,” he said. “That will be a difficult needle to thread.”
McMorris Rodgers said negotiations on an immigration bill has been underway since the fall and work will continue as the deadline gets closer.
“There’s been other working groups and sessions that we’ve been having in the House to look deeper from a House perspective as to what else can be included,” she said. “We largely agree on the DACA fix, border security, ending chain migration and the visa lottery program reforms. I support those top four priorities.”
President Donald Trump spoke of a four-tier immigration plan Tuesday evening at the State of the Union address. He also pushed for a transportation package worth at least $1.5 trillion.
“We have a long list of infrastructure needs in this county,” McMorris Rodgers said. “If we could find a way to pay for it, I believe that the Republicans and the Democrats would love to move forward and deliver a major infrastructure package for the country. The question is how do we pay for it.”
McMorris Rodgers did not say infrastructure would be the main policy issue Republicans would tackle in 2018, instead telling reporters an answer would come at the end of the retreat.
Republicans took part in a working breakfast Thursday morning with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Defense Secretary James Mattis. The president is scheduled to speak to retreat attendees during a lunch period.