Unprecedented study of 3,000 Michigan public school buildings set to launch in summer

Congressional GOP drafts its ambitious agenda

Erica Werner
Associated Press

Philadelphia — Congressional Republicans laid plans Wednesday to act on a health care repeal bill by the end of March and rewrite the tax code by August as they sketched out an ambitious agenda for their first 200 days under President Donald Trump.

Meeting in Philadelphia for their annual policy retreat, they also discussed action to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, write an infrastructure package sought by Trump and push funding for defense and border priorities.

The gathering was shadowed by a rocky start to the Trump administration, full of distracting, inaccurate claims about voter fraud and inaugural crowd sizes that some lawmakers fear could distract from their ability to deliver in a new era of GOP control. Trump will address the retreat on Thursday.

“We have to get on to the serious issue of governing, these other issues are distractions,” Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa, said. “It’s a very aggressive agenda.”

Lawmakers arrived in Philadelphia via chartered train Wednesday. The 200-day agenda was discussed at a downtown hotel, in a working session led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan.

Ryan laid out the goals of passing legislation to repeal former President Barack Obama’s health care bill and replace some portions by the end of March; and passing legislation to overhaul the loophole-ridden tax code by August.

“Our goal is to get this done by the end of summer, which is, for Congress, quite fast,” Ryan said on MSNBC Wednesday night about a tax overhaul plan that aims to reduce corporate rates to 20 percent or lower. “We really don’t think we can get the kind of economic growth we have the potential to get without tax reform.”

The Senate will also be occupied with confirming a new Supreme Court justice to fill the court’s vacancy. McConnell got a standing ovation from House and Senate lawmakers in the closed-door meeting for his aggressive tactics last year in refusing for 10 months to fill the vacancy created by Antonin Scalia’s death, which now hands Trump a seat to fill.

Details from the gathering were described by lawmakers and aides speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the private conversations.

Along with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence is addressing the gathering Thursday.