Editor's note: This post was updated at 2:50 p.m. ET on Feb. 9, in response to the comment by Catherine from Edmonds, Wash. See the final two paragraphs.
House Republicans this morning have loaded onto buses and are now en route to their annual retreat, where they will ponder no less a question than "Who are we and why are we here?"
The 232 members of the House GOP Conference are embarking on "a period of renewal," said brand new Majority Leader John Boehner, Ohio. He says he is looking forward to "coming together with a common vision of who we are and why we're here" over the three-day retreat on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Boehner stood in front of the idling buses and spoke just before departure.
The gathering is for members and their families and is being held this year at the Hyatt resort in Cambridge, Md., on the shores of the Choptank River. The meetings are described as "unstructured," but there are scheduled speakers. Today they will hear from RNC boss Ken Mehlman, and tomorrow the president arrives for brief remarks and Q & A. The White House congressional liaison team will also be there. Saturday, the issue of lobby reform is on the table.
This year, as in years past, the members pay for their own food, lodging and transportation. Up until a few weeks ago, the planning and logistics for the confab was to be taken care of by something called "The Congressional Insitute," a 501-c4 non-profit organization. But the Institute has a board comprised of several former Hill GOP staffers who are currently prominent lobbyists, so it was decided at the last minute that perhaps the Conference had best forgo their services this year. Their role has been reduced, though I don't know to what extent.
Senate Republicans were to "retreat" a few weeks ago, also under the auspices of the Institute, but canceled the trip altogether and met across the street at the Library of Congress instead.