GOP looks for a winning formula in 2018

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.V. (AP) — Congressional Republicans have gathered at a West Virginia resort in search of a winning election-year agenda. The best they have to offer in 2018 may be a recitation of the tax cuts approved in 2017 — and the threat of another government shutdown is looming.

The legislators had forums on topics such as infrastructure, national security and the economy — but noticeably not on immigration, the major issue that bedevils them.

They got a pep talk from President Donald Trump reliving passage of the tax bill and highlighting other GOP victories from his first year in office. But the president offered no clear strategy for resolving the immigration-and-spending standoff that produced a three-day government shutdown in January and threatens a second shutdown next week. And he offered no new policy details on infrastructure, prescription drug prices or other items he’s mentioned as ripe for attention in 2018.

As for an immigration strategy, Trump said: “We have to get help from the other side, or we have to elect many more Republicans.” He then proceeded to take jabs at Democrats just days after calling for bipartisan unity in his State of the Union address.

Trump took a similar tack at a second GOP event Thursday night in Washington.

“You know the Democrats are AWOL. They’re missing in action,” Trump said at the Republican National Committee’s winter meeting at his Washington hotel. “We’re saying, ‘Where are they?’ We have a proposal. We never hear from them.”

Republicans appear headed into the year with the idea that 2017 was when they got bigger items done and that 2018 will be a time to deal with necessary business, including spending and immigration. Infrastructure would likely require a sustained push from the president. The message for the midterms is expected to be the economy and tax cuts.

“Tax reform is working,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan, citing investments by UPS and employee bonuses by Lowe’s as the latest evidence. Take-home pay is going up, while consumer confidence is at a 17-year high and unemployment at a 17-year low, Ryan said.

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