House GOP awaits Obama to start retreat

BALTIMORE -- Emboldened by an unexpected victory in Massachusetts and frustrated with a “partisan” State of the Union address, House Republicans are eager to meet with President Barack Obama on Friday.

The president is scheduled to appear before roughly 130 House GOP lawmakers at their annual three-day retreat held in Maryland this weekend.

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After pledging to keep up the fight for healthcare reform, job creation and climate change during Wednesday night’s spirited 70-minute national address, Republicans are prepared to share their ideas with him -- directly.

“We're eager for the president to come to our retreat tomorrow. We're going to have an honest conversation about America's priorities and trying to find ways to find some common ground,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said at a press conference Thursday from the U.S. Capitol.

Handfuls of GOP lawmakers tried to meet with the president to discuss their ideas for reforming healthcare after he requested their proposals during a national address last September, but most House Republicans were denied.

Members walking off the buses into the lobby of the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel on Thursday afternoon, were animated and ready to get started working with their colleagues on the way forward.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) carried a poster-board size copy of the “Declaration of Health Care Independence” with him in an effort to collect signatures from his colleagues -- perhaps Obama.

Gohmert, Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) and others introduced a set of principles on Wednesday dubbed the "Declaration of Health Care Independence" to establish that they would not support expanding the government's control of healthcare. They intend to collect signatures from their colleagues over the weekend.

According to an official agenda obtained by The Hill, lawmakers have a packed schedule over the three-day retreat.

By the time Obama appears before the lawmakers and their spouses, members will have already participated in “member feedback/working issue” sessions on jobs/economy, spending, healthcare, national security and energy.

They will also have heard from former Speaker Newt Gingrich, set to speak at a Friday morning breakfast, and participate in a “landscape session” on the 2010 midterm outlook with pollsters David Winston and Kellyanne Conway.

In addition, uber-pollster and political consultant Frank Luntz is scheduled to lead a session on “Communicating Our Message.”

According to the agenda for the “Congress of Tomorrow 2010,” lawmakers will hear from high-profile political operatives and leaders with a focus on legislating and getting re-elected in the year ahead.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, fresh from giving the GOP's response to Obama's State of the Union address, is also set to address the GOP lawmakers on Saturday. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is set to speak with the group on Friday.

Israel's ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, is set to keynote Thursday night’s dinner. Legendary Notre Dame football coach and ESPN announcer Lou Holtz will headline Friday night’s program.

GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) set the agenda for the issues retreat. Pence will speak with reporters early Friday morning before the president arrives.