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Republicans Plan Next Move At Philadelphia Retreat


President Trump is pushing forward with his agenda. He has taken executive actions to order construction of that wall to begin on the Mexico border. He's also taken executive action to start overhauling the nation's health care system, but ultimately, many of his goals do depend on Congress. And the president and vice president are heading to Philadelphia today where congressional Republicans are holding a retreat to map out their agenda for the year. One other person in Philadelphia is NPR's Susan Davis, who covers Congress and who is from Philadelphia. So you're home, Sue.

SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: It's good to be back.

GREENE: Well, there you go. Well, let's - let me ask you one question we've been talking about on the program this morning. It's the wall and who is going to pay for it. Some estimates - over $10 billion. President Trump says Mexico is going to pay. The Mexican government has not given any indication of that. Would Congress pay for it?

DAVIS: They are prepared to pay, and I think $10 billion is a pretty conservative estimate so far. I've talked to congressional aides who say that the estimates they operate off of are at least $15 billion. And that's not including maintenance costs after it's built. Republicans here are talking about looking at a spending bill this spring that will be - the president's expected to ask from Congress that's going to include money for the ongoing war efforts. And in that, it's going to include an additional request for some border money.

It's unclear how much that's going to be, if he's going to ask for a big lump sum or an incremental down payment. But they are prepared to pay for it. There's been one notable exception. Congressman Will Hurd is a Texas Republican. He represents the border district, and he says he thinks it's the most expensive and least effective, in his words, way to do it and that they should use smarter technologies. But he is in the minority here.

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GREENE: OK. So otherwise, the party pretty united when it comes to this.

DAVIS: Yeah, and Paul Ryan has said as much.

GREENE: Well, Paul Ryan, the House speaker, says the other thing Republicans are going to be doing at this retreat is sorting out how to replace Obamacare, that there's the whole repeal and then replace thing. They've taken the first steps towards repealing it. What about a replacement? Where do things stand?

DAVIS: The speaker and the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, outlined the year ahead yesterday to their colleagues, and they want to have a bill to President Trump's desk by early spring that they say would repeal key parts of the law and include still to be determined some option of replacement plans. One example of the things they're talking about is if in this bill they were to repeal that individual mandate and instead create new tax credits to incentivize people to buy insurance, not tell them they have to have it, they would do that in one bill, and then, throughout the course of the year, do other little fixes.

I'm told they're not talking about doing one big massive health care bill - don't expect a Trumpcare (ph) bill is what one said to me - and that they would do little scattershot bills throughout the year. Another idea they're talking about that would be a separate bill is a bill that would let people buy insurance across state lines. Now, these aren't final. They're not necessarily going to do that, but that's what they're talking about.

GREENE: Do congressional Republicans have their own idea for what they want their agenda to be separate from the new president?

DAVIS: You know, David, this legislative agenda they've outlined I think is the most ambitious I've heard from leaders to do in a single year. They're calling it the first 200 days versus the first 100 days that presidents are often judged by. After overhauling the health care system that they want to be done by spring, they're looking at also overhauling the entire federal tax code for corporations, for small businesses, for individuals and completely revamping the IRS. They also want to do infrastructure spending on those roads and bridges Donald Trump has called for. They also need to raise the debt ceiling, and they want to rework how they spend - rework budget caps that tells them how much money they can spend. And on top of that, David, they're expected to have a Supreme Court nomination, and that could come as early as next week.

GREENE: A lot to talk about. That's going to be a very busy early part of 2017. That is NPR's congressional correspondent Susan Davis in Philadelphia where Republicans are holding their annual retreat, talking about their agenda for the coming year. Sue, thanks as always.

DAVIS: Thank you.


Susan Davis is a congressional correspondent for NPR and a co-host of the NPR Politics Podcast. She has covered Congress, elections, and national politics since 2002 for publications including USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal, National Journal and Roll Call. She appears regularly on television and radio outlets to discuss congressional and national politics, and she is a contributor on PBS's Washington Week with Robert Costa. She is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., and a Philadelphia native.