White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.–Congressional Republicans’ annual planning retreat at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia began on Wednesday, the day after President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address, highlighting the successes of his administration’s first year in office. The feeling of success was hampered by an Amtrak accident involving the train that carried many members. Even so, Vice President Mike Pence, who addressed the members before dinner, sought to rally the party heading into the 2018 midterm races, stressing the many successes the administration had accomplished during its first year in office.
“It is an honor to see writ large the partnership we have formed together, a partnership between Republican majorities in the House and Senate and the president, who have delivered real results for the American people,” Pence told the members.
Among the legislative accomplishments of the Republican majorities in both houses, he listed the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, record numbers of appeals court confirmations, increases in defense reauthorization spending, and large decreases in regulation.
Pence’s remarks echoed the triumphant tone of the president’s State of the Union, stressing the administration’s successes and leaving out any mention of Trump’s declining poll numbers. Instead, he urged the members to return to their districts to “tell the story” of what the party had accomplished in the past year.
“Blueprint for American success is found in telling the story of the administration’s successes and the things they have managed to deliver for the American people,” he said.
According to Pence, this was a key difference between the Republican-controlled Congress and its Democratic predecessors.
“I remember how they tried to pass cap and trade. They gave us Dodd Frank and the disastrous policies of Obamacare,” he said. Meanwhile, Republicans had successfully passed tax reform, made significant progress on their deregulatory agenda, and repealed parts of the healthcare law that had discouraged hiring.
As the members head into the campaign season, Pence urged them to embrace the successes of the administration, especially tax and regulatory reform that have already resulted in thousands of dollars in bonuses and larger wages.
Pence dismissed critiques from Democratic leadership that $1,000 bonuses, like those issued by Disney, Home Depot, and other companies were peanuts.
“I come from the Joseph A. Bank wing of the West Wing,” he joked. “If you think $1,000 is crumbs, you live in a different world than I live in.”
Despite the successes of the new administration and Congress, both Pence and his audience realize that their work is not yet complete. The issues that would be the focus of discussions at the retreat, including the president’s infrastructure plan and foreign policy issues like the defeat of ISIS, would be continuing challenges in 2018.
“We have made incredible progress but we need to finish the job,” Pence concluded.