WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Over the course of the two-and-a-half days that ended Friday, Republicans holed up at the stately Kingsmill Resort for their annual retreat tried to game out the year. The resort bills itself as a "golf, spa and luxury hotel," but few of the members had much time for pleasure; as the majority in the House staring down a Democratic-led Senate and Democratic White House, there was work to be done.Here's a look at what went down:
AND HE'S BACK
When Rep. Paul Ryan's vice presidential bid ended in November, he returned to Congress but receded into the background, giving few interviews and, save for a high-profile vote in favor of the "fiscal cliff" deal, keeping his head down. But for those wondering about Ryan's next act, the answer came into relief when he addressed journalists as something of the official spokesman for his conference.
"We think the worst thing for the economy, for this Congress and this administration would be to do nothing to get our debt and deficits under control," Ryan said. "We know we have a debt crisis coming. This is not an 'if' question, it's a 'when' question."
There had been some suggestion that Ryan might be considering a presidential bid in 2016 and, despite his perch as Budget Committee chairman, was going to allow the House leadership to shoulder the responsibility on coming fiscal fights. But he took a front-and-center role at the retreat.He was one of only two legislators officially trotted out to speak on the record, and he was the one who gave his fellow members a dose of bitter medicine, warning, "We also have to recognize the realities of the divided government that we have."
He was also the first to publicly mention that his conference was open to the idea of a short-term extension of the debt limit, which ultimately became the biggest news out of the retreat.
DEBT LIMIT, DEBT LIMIT, DEBT LIMIT
The Republican retreat is meant to be an opportunity for members to discuss the coming year. But the most important strategic decision, it seemed, involved only the first 90 days.
So what does the first quarter of 2013 hold? A possible short-term extension of the debt ceiling, which emerged as a proposal on which nearly the entire conference was able to come to rare consensus. But other than the fiscal wrangling to come, Republicans did not seem to delve too deeply into the other big issues they are certain to confront.
When Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana said gun control and immigration -- two of three major issues on the White House's plate -- had not even come up. Another participant later said that gun control had been briefly discussed. The verdict: "The Senate will almost certainly act first," the official said.
Though House Republicans have struggled to marshal the majority of their majority on two big-ticket votes, the bare 218 required to pass legislation is no longer sufficient to satisfy Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority whip.
He wants the "full cry."
The term "whip," he explained, derives from a fox hunting expression. A "full cry," he added, is the call made when the dog catches the scent of the fox. When a "full cry" comes, all of the other dogs -- in the case of this metaphor, presumably, the House Republicans -- fall into line, pursuing the prey with unified vigor.
TO THE STOCKS
While the House Republicans were treated to Colonial festivities, the media was banished to the stocks, confined to a single room in the clubhouse. When several reporters tried to go to an adjoining room to sit by the fire, they were promptly scolded and told they could leave only to eat or use the bathroom.
Meanwhile, a podium -- with five American flags -- had been set up for the possibility of televised news conferences, but on Friday morning, the official word came: There would be no briefings. At that point, the assembled reporters began beating a retreat of their own -- back to the nation's capital for the presidential inauguration.
NEW YORK TIMES