GOP leaders hold retreat in St. Michaels


WASHINGTON -- Top Republican congressional leaders and senior White House aides will gather today at a resort on Maryland's Eastern Shore for a private, two-day retreat.

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference, said 30 to 35 people would meet at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, including House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. is expected, Spicer said, and other White House officials might be there.

Missing from the roster is Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, who attended similar events in the past, including last year. He stepped down as House majority leader in September after being indicted in his home state.

The Republican leaders will discuss legislative strategy for the remainder of the year and their 2006 agenda at the session, which is closed to the press, Spicer said.

The House is in recess until Dec. 6; the Senate is scheduled to return to work Dec. 12. Before leaving for the Thanksgiving break, both chambers grappled with the percolating debate over the war in Iraq and packages of budget and tax cuts.

The nonprofit Congressional Institute is picking up the tab for the stay. Double rooms for tonight cost $165 to $295, according to the hotel's Web site.

The group's board of directors --- mainly Washington lobbyists whose corporate clients help provide funding - frequently joins lawmakers for a welcoming reception at the start of such events.

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