Economy Takes Center Stage at Democratic Retreat
WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - While important work on the economic stimulus package is going on in the Senate, House Democrats have decamped here, 150 miles south of the Capitol, to begin crafting a legislative agenda and a majority-protecting message for this election year.
Just as in the Senate, the focus here today is on the economy. Meeting at the bucolic Kingsmill Resort, Democrats will hear from four panels of experts holding forth on various aspects of economic policy.
A trio of Democratic governors - Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Martin O'Malley (Md.) and Bill Richardson (N.M.) - are here to talk about how the states are responding to the current economic downturn. The other three panels will focus on families, the environment and infrastructure investments.
Last night's keynote speaker at dinner was former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who gave a treatise on Iraq and foreign policy. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (Md.) also gave his presentation on the current state of play on the electoral front. Tomorrow's main event will be a morning speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Along the way, Democrats will talk among themselves about what can and should get done in the House for the remainder of the 110th Congress. Election years are traditionally slow on the legislative front; the press is focused on the presidential campaign, and both parties will be wary of wading too far into politically risky territory like entitlement reform or a comprehensive immigration bill.
Democrats obviously believe that the economic stimulus package, which should soon become law despite hurdles in the Senate, will give them some breathing room on the issue. But they know they won't be able to rest on that. A second stimulus package is a possibility, as are bills on health care, energy and a host of other domestic topics. The question is whether Democrats will leave Williamsburg with a concrete plan for getting those things done.
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