Despite the looming threat of a blizzard, House Democrats get into full swing with their annual strategy retreat Thursday at a tony hotel on Maryland's Eastern Shore, complete with an appearance by President Obama, a speech from Vice President Joe Biden, and an optional wine-tasting outing.
Most of the attendees beat the storm by arriving Wednesday for the initial events of the three-day get-together at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge, Md.
And while Biden's lunch speech Thursday and Obama's breakfast address Friday are open to the media, there is a long list of other, more private strategy sessions, workshops, and events, according to a copy of the nonpublic agenda for the retreat put together by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra.
The "break-out" issues sessions and workshops beginning Thursday morning include "Developing a Winning Message," moderated by Rep. Frank Pallone; "The Minimum Wage: Why We Fight, How We Win," moderated Rep. Keith Ellison; and "Unmarried Women — They Will Elect You If You Get It Right," moderated by Rep. Rosa DeLauro.
There are several sessions on how members can "Sharpen Your Media Skills" as well, including one entitled "Become a Q&A Ninja: Proven Techniques for Fielding Difficult Questions."
There's also a workshop on "Enfranchising America," moderated by Becerra, and another entitled "Leave No American Behind," moderated by Rep. Joaquin Castro with a panel of speakers that includes Donna Brazile, the Democratic National Committee vice chair.
Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, will moderate a session on "Fighting for Our Values."
Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, is to give the keynote address at the dinner Thursday night.
The agenda does include some down time, including an optional "Taste of Maryland Wine Tasting" outing and a tour of the nearby Harriet Tubman Museum on Thursday.
The Democratic Caucus retreat comes two weeks after the House Republicans' own get-together at the same resort, located about an hour and a half from Washington. In both cases, bus transportation from Capitol Hill was provided, and lawmakers will pay for their own food and lodging.
But the House Democratic Caucus will once again turn to taxpayers — rather than special-interest money — to foot much of the remaining costs of its own conference. Meanwhile, the GOP's annual event was again sponsored by the Alexandria, Va.-based Congressional Institute, a nonprofit that relies on contributions from corporate and trade-association members.